Real/Non-Real is Stephanie Douet’s ongoing exploration of ways in which the eye can be readily deceived. She uses her own sculptures, found objects and visual effects to create performances and installations that explore historical and contemporary optical trickery.
Since 2001, Douet has been creating a series of visual experiments, mediating the real world through simple means such as lenses, mirrors, paint and lights to produce complex and mind-altering landscapes. It began with her interest in the ingenious designs of camouflage in World War II that could disguise entire villages, airfields and harbours with little more than smoke and mirrors. This led Douet to look at historical optical instruments at the Museum of the History of Science, where a recent residency provided her with models and drawings that have been developed into a new body of work for her residency at Modern Art Oxford.
The shape of these historic optical instruments has influenced the form of her sculptures and assemblages. There is something appealingly human in their proportion – barrel stomachs, lens eyes, brass arms, pincer fingers. The black and white palette references early photography, scientific diagrams, cartoonish plans and literal truth – as well as a nod to Vermeer, perhaps the most famous user of the camera obscura.
Douet’s process itself is more reckless than scientific – improvising often at speed with the architecture, scale, collage, lighting and reflection as she works towards the construction of a landscape of unexpected visual incidents.