SPECIAL ARTIST SESSION: Trompe L’oeil: Bridging the Gap Between Art and Architecture
presented by John Pugh, Los Gatos Studio
Wednesday, May 21, 4:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Hall of Mirrors
Session: Decorative Coating Materials and Methods

As a trompe l'oeil artist focusing primarily on public art, I have found that the "language" of life-size illusions allows me to communicate with a very large audience. People take delight in being visually tricked. Once intrigued by the illusion, the viewer is invited to visually cross into the mural to explore the discovery layers and the deeper concept of the piece. I have also found that by creating architectural illusion that integrates with the existing environment both optically and aesthetically, the art transcends the "separateness" that public art sometimes produces.

Public art is a very powerful form of communication, and with it comes great responsibility. The concept message needs to be an authentic one and in no way commercial. People crave human connection. Ironically, this humanistic draw is the most effective way to spur economic development. With a clear intention to create a public art attraction, I strive to design the mural in a way that is not typical or a commonplace mural format, that I "think of the box." Often this includes creating an illusion that is iconic, unusual, or a dynamic anomaly.

The passerby is much more apt to engage with an uncommon architectural event or phenomenon while he or she unconsciously surveys the urban landscape. Creating a sense of place is paramount. It is important for me as an artist, to research the area and its community, formulating concepts based upon a multitude of historical, environmental, cultural, and current viewpoints. By serving to educate about culture and heritage, the mural deepens our roots, and creates a pride of place. This inspires new possibilities, the sharing of ideas, and assists in bridging cultural gaps in the community.

Clarity of language allows the artwork to 'elevate rather than alienate'. By weaving the mural tapestry with threads of trompe l'oeil, no translation is needed. Yet layers of heritage, of human spirit, or of dreams can be woven together in innovative ways - dynamic or subtle - that will inspire. I like to play with the mural composition so that the layers may unfold sequentially, creating a multi-dimensional narrative, and like music, play with the timbre and delicate melodic overtones of the layers to elicit heartfelt emotions. Ultimately. the goal of the mural is to conjure fresh feelings and perceptions, and evoke a sense of connectivity with the mural, within us and the world around us.

Learning Objectives:

Understand how trompe L'oeil murals foster communication with audiences in public spaces.

Understand how architectural illusion in murals can be integrated with the existing environment.

Understand the value to the audience of an iconic, unusual, or dynamic illusion in a mural.

Understand how a multi-dimensional narrative is created in a mural composition.


Speaker Bio:

John Pugh is a trompe l’oeil artist focusing primarily on mural painting. His murals can be found across the U.S. and abroad, including the countries of Barbados, Taiwan and New Zealand. His work has appeared in articles throughout the world including Time, Focus, Artweek, Art Business News, Rocky Mountain News, Southwest Art, L.A. Times, New York Times, Tokyo Mainichi, San Francisco Examiner and San Jose Mercury. He has been the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus award from California State University, the Master Muralist award from Precita Eyes Mural Art Center, and the Most Successful Mural Artist award from California Mural Symposium.