Paradoxes refer to situations or reasonings that escape the logic of common sense, producing an effect of contradiction and uncertainty that our subconscious rejects as true. Art has also worried about this issue and some creators have wanted to deceive our senses with impossible images and visual tricks. The success, in these cases, is that the resulting works are perfectly real, but the ideas expressed are implausible and oblige us to pay special attention to what we see.

Escher, “Ascending and Descending”, 1960

The games of perspectives and the optical illusions feed on the schemes that our mind has, after years of observation and interaction with the environment. We tend to classify the things that we see within the patterns of normality and frequency that our senses dictate to us. Thus, if we analyse a cube-like shape, our brain reconstructs the faces we do not see to create a mental image of the figure. It is precisely these mechanisms what allow visual paradoxes, impossible perspectives and false appearances.

Anamorphic Art by István Orosz

This is also an extensive field of expression for mathematical calculation and geometric games. In many of these riddles, there is an imperceptible trap that deceives our reason and prevents us from seeing reality. Nothing is what it seems. And our logic is not used to being confused with pranks and tricks. However, this may be a good boost to promote alternative thinking and force us to face things from new points of view.

Frame from “Inception”, by Christopher Nolan, 2010

Although the use of these resources seems more typical of the traditional circus and magic, conceived to distort reality, it is still an element of deep impact that, when used cleverly, produces a great effect. So did Christopher Nolan in the film Inception, where the protagonists had to work out their imagination to create visual labyrinths from which to flee when needed; like the circular stairs that rise infinitely, something, obviously, impossible.

Paradoxical Art Sculptures By Nancy Fouts

Escher has largely worked this idea. His work is full of visual games that confuse the viewer and that defy the laws of gravity and our (predictable and known) three-dimensional space. That is the advantage of drawing, which allows to depict these optical illusions without any limitation on paper. Other artists explore the field of conceptual paradoxes, and create pieces with opposing ideas in artworks that often hide a humorous reading of reality, because contradictions also serve for that (what, if not, irony or sarcasm are?). A true gift for the senses.


The CEART opens this Thursday, November 14th in the room A an exhibition dedicated to this master of photography, which will be open to the public until February 9th. The show includes one of the artist's latest projects, focused on the hard work carried out by the miners of Serra Pelada, an open gold mine in the heart of Brazil where employees daily risked their lives.

Immigration, poverty, marginal life, slave labour, man's relationship with the land, the use of natural resources... are issues that have always fascinated Salgado. From the beginning of his career as a photographer, his work has opted to give visibility to the most disadvantaged groups and to create with his images a vivid and impressive visual story without fakes. With a raw black and white, this author's work transits between photo-reportage and naturalistic photography.

And the idea that permeates all his work is human dignity. Salgado portrays employees, miners and gatherers from a purely humanistic approach that wants to value their integrity, their strength and their resilience.

“If you photograph a human, so that he is not represented in a noble way, there is no reason to take the picture. That is my way of seeing things.”

Salgado entered this discipline long after completing his studies in economics between Brazil and the United States, and a doctorate in statistics in France. But in 1973 his life took a turn, and he decided to start his career as a photographer. He achieved to work at the Gamma Agency and Magnum Photos for more than 15 years until in 1994 he founded his own agency “Amazonas Imagen”.

With the “Gold” project, the photographer portrays a harsh reality that takes place in the Serra Pelada mine, a name given to a totally devastated and anarchically excavated mining enclave, the world's largest open-pit gold mine, through which more than 50,000 people have passed. In the heat of the legends about the mysterious “El Dorado”, the enthusiasm for this precious metal led to the development of strenuous exploitation practices for the workers and to originate tales of grief and glory, of human victory and defeat between the soil, the tunnels and the cargo baskets.

The CEART exhibition brings together Salgado's full portfolio in his characteristical black and white and large-format photographs that leave no one indifferent.