The Oakes Twins

Oakes Jardin
Art is the playground of the physical world.

Light is the medium of all visual art.
Any piece of visual material—art, nature, literature— that may spark awe in the mind will come through the gates of the eyes.        —The Oakes Twins

Early on, for subject matter in our art, we tended toward the investigation of center points. Centrally oriented clusters where things collected, or from which they dispersed, seemed to be everywhere in the physical world—from atoms to the human embryo to city centers to planetary bodies. Their abundance gives them significance, and we chose to focus much of our early art around the investigation and creation of center points.

Within the territory of center points, light in particular became a primary focus. Light bursting into a growing sphere from its source; the eye extracting an inverted spherical burst of light from the air, converging at the pupil; and space as it appears to shrink to a vanishing point on the horizon line are among the center-point phenomena present within light. Light, the eyes looking via light, and the space they ultimately take in, thus became a core of our artistic exploration.


Context about the Concave Drawing Series

These drawings begin with a spherical sheet of paper that wraps around a viewer akin to the way real space surrounds one’s gaze. Drawing space on a curved surface is necessary to be in harmony with the spherical splay of light rays that enter one’s eyes. To plot the image onto curved paper we invented a method of “split focus” whereby one eye looks at the paper’s edge, and the other eye looks at a scene in the distance just to the side of the paper. The brain automatically tries to reconcile these two different images coming into each eye and presents them to the conscious mind as overlapped, which causes the edge of the paper to appear sort of ghost-like and transparent, and superimposed on top of the scene beyond. At this point a tracing of the scene can be made along the margin of the paper and any desired visual characteristics of the space can be copied in accurate proportion, scale, location, and color. When one margin of paper is rendered from top to bottom, it is cut away and removed. The same process is then repeated along the paper’s new edge until (over the course of about a month) the entire sheet of paper is rendered upon, one margin at a time. In the end all the margins that have been cut away are reassembled into a panoramic drawing that closely depicts how the space appeared to the naked eye. This measurement technique gives the drawings a foundation of accurate proportions, upon which a range of further artistic territory to navigate emerges. Herein our exploration continues.


Photoshopped rendering of the “double-ghostimage” seen when using our “split focus” drawing method. The visual transparency and doubling of the pen and paper can be used as an optical drawing tool to trace a given space. This doubling effect occurs automatically when one’s sight-lines are aligned in the distance beyond the paper plane, and not focused on the paper.



To learn more about The Oakes Twins, try one of these resources:

Notable articles:

Chicago Reader

Virginia Quarterly Review


Getty Interview Part 1

Getty Interview Part 2

Double Vision: Ryan and Trevor Oakes at TEDxCooper Union