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The Three Stages of The Centaur

Centaur sculpture - white

Centaur Painting #7

Centaur - Painted Sculpture
The Centaur is a mythological Greek figure comprising a half man and a half horse. This form has been the basis of the art based research undertaken by Geoffrey McDonald and designprobe for the past few years.

The basic form consists of 8 flat panels that form a 2D jigsaw puzzle and can be configured into a 3D form of a centaur.

The key research questions being explored through the Centaur form has evolved through three significant stages.

What is the relationship between 2D Plans and 3D forms?

The first stage revolves around the question: "What is the relationship between the 2D plan and the 3D form that derives from the plan?"

Typically, in the use of plans, as in architectural plans, they are used because it is not possible to 'draw' the building in full prior to constructing it. Therefore the plans are created as an alternate version of the building such that the design can be described by the designer to the builder. In this sense the map is not the territory, as the menu is not the food.

In the case of the Centaur, the 2D plan is the 3D form simply configured in a different way. This question has implications for the nature of computer modelling and computer aided design systems.

How do you represent an object with multiple configurations?

The second stage revolves around the question: If a object has several configurations, in this case as a 2D and 3D form, how do you represent both of these aspects?

Traditionally, as in the single view model of the Renaissance Perspective we would achieve this through separate views or separate paintings.

In contrast, the multiple views of the Cubist painters and tribal cultures to show these views simulataneously and this is the approach we have taken to explore here.

This issue takes on increased importance as more and more designed products are able to be configured in different ways.

How does the surface image of a 3D form affect our perception of it?

The third and current stage revolves around the question: How does the 3D form and its 2D surface image affect our perception of the object?

In the case of the Centaur, the form painted in flat white paint is 'read' a particular way. However, when the same form has an image painted on its surface, it is read in a completely different way.

This parallels 'camouflage' as found in nature. Various animals, inlcuding birds, butterflies and fish, have 'false eyes' as surface markings on their wings and body. This enables the prey to fool a potential predator who reads the 'false eye' as belonging to a bigger or different animal. In this way, the camouflage enables the prey to escape.

Given that the majority of our designed objects have a uniform surface and colour as compared to a patterned or imaged surface, this raises some interesting cultural questions and some opportunities for new products and new designs.

For more on this see: Viewing the Centaur


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