Implied motion in Hokusai Manga

Artists employ a number of different techniques to represent implied motion in two-dimensional works. One of these, commonly used in posters, comics and animation, is the affine shear effect, whereby a moving object is depicted as leaning into the direction of movement. Cartoonists also use action lines to depict movement and speed, with straight lines conveying fast movements and wavy lines conveying slower ones. Motion can also be conveyed by superimposing several images showing the successive positions of a movement, or by a blurred image showing the different positions simultaneously.

The Japanese artist and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) used a different and innovative technique to convey motion. The simple line drawings in his Manga strips lack all of the commonly-used motion effects, yet give a strong impression of movement by depicting the human body in highly unstable postures. As a new study just published in the journal NeuroReport shows, the figures in the sketches are perceived to be moving because their gravity-defying postures activate regions of the visual cortex that are sensitive to motion.

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The illusion of time: Perceiving the effect before the cause

A novel temporal illusion, in which the cause of an event is perceived to occur after the event itself, provides some insight into the brain mechanisms underlying conscious perception. The illusion, described in the journal Current Biology by a team of researchers from France, suggests that the unconscious representation of a visual object is processed for around one tenth of a second before it enters conscious awareness.

Chien-Te Wu and his colleagues at the Brain and Cognition Research Centre in Toulouse used a visual phenomenon called motion-induced blindness, in which a constantly rotating background causes prominent and motionless visual stimuli to disappear and reappear, as demonstrated in the video below. Fixate on the flashing green spot in the centre, and you’ll notice that the surrounding yellow spots begin to disappear and reappear after about ten seconds. Then replay the clip and focus on any of the yellow spots; you’ll see that it is a visual disappearance illusion. Exactly how it works is unclear; according to one hypothesis it is due to the properties of neurons in area V1 of the visual cortex.

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