“Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.” – Plato
An illusion is powerful because it plays with what we know something to be, despite what our eyes are telling us. The conflict, then, is what we know versus what we see. There can be illusions with all the senses (e.g., touch, smell, hearing,) but a visual illusion is quite significant because we rely so much on our vision to function in our world. The power of the illusion is that we are trained, actually hardwired, to believe what we see. “I saw it with my own eyes,” we say. “Seeing is believing.” “Eyewitness.” “I call it as I see it.” Illusions are visual puzzles that stop the unconscious or automatic processing of visual information, having the potential to wake us up, at least momentarily, from a casual viewing of our world.
This process of “startling” the viewer can be extremely powerful, more than just a “double-take” but a way to get viewers to actually see something in a new way. The important piece is to use this powerful process to make an aesthetic statement – not to relay on the “trick.” Illusions are the basis of magic tricks – but for a magician the trick is the end in itself. For the artist the illusion is the method or devise to make a deeper statement, giving the viewer a deeper level of engagement.