Whilst I don’t have a “Top 5 Favourite” buildings list, if I did, then this building would definitely be pushing for a place on that list. This photographic art print is of the rear of the Gooderham Building, which is also known as the “Flatiron Building”. If you want to see what the front of this delicately slim building looks like, you can see it here. What especially delights me is that I don’t have to rely upon my memories (or photographs!) to recall what this splendid mural looks like, as the building is right here in Toronto!
Now, the question I’m going to ask you is how long did you spend looking at this picture before you worked out just what was going on? It really is a spectacular optical illusion. It’s an example of a technique known as “Trompe-l’œil” (which is French for “deceive the eye”) that uses realistic imagery to create the illusion that objects portrayed in two dimensions actually exist in three. It’s a fascinating technique that’s been around for centuries and is still used by plenty of talented people today. Check out the website of Edgar Müller here for some superb examples.
No matter how many times I look at this photograph, I still can’t convince my brain that what I am seeing is a flat, two dimensional image. We take what we see for granted, yet it’s never what is actually in front of our eyes. For example, our brains are hot-wired to ignore a static image once we have seen it, and only concentrates on images that are changing, or moving. It’s one of the reasons many people suffer from sea-sickness – the rocking motion of a boat conflicts with the “still” image perceived in our heads, causing nausea. The brain is actually a very easy thing to fool, as this amazing mural shows.
The mural was created in 1980 by the Canadian artist Derek Michael Besant who was born in Alberta in 1950. The installation is known as the “curtain wall” mural or the “Flatiron” mural and is actually mounted on a huge steel armature fixed to the rear of the building.
The Flatiron building itself you can read about in one of my earlier blog posts here. Many people mistakenly believe that the Toronto version of the Flatiron is a copy of the iconic New York Flatiron building which is located at 175 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The truth is the Toronto building was completed first, in 1892, a full ten years before its Big Apple counterpart.
I found this shot quite a challenge to compose, as I knew I had to get the composition completely correct to give justice to the mural and the artist who created it. I think I’ve got the angle and framing of the building just about right, just enough to make sure anyone who views the photograph for the first time has to do a double take. I hope you will think that I’ve given it justice