PHOTO: Sophia.org

Art has three basic perspectives: linear, atmospheric and isometric. Each with their own quirks and wonders, but it’s the isometric perspective which appeals to me more so than the other two because of a couple of reasons.

One is the fact that there is no vanishing point in isometric perspective, which is apparent in linear perspective. Linear perspective is supposed to create an illusion of space according to how we see it with our own eyes. Thus, everything we see has a limited and fixed point of view. There will always be parts of the painting which look over a horizon that you can’t see in the far distance because there is a vanishing point where the lines appear to converge. At the same time, if the view of the artist suddenly shifts even a mere one feet to the right, this would result in an entirely new arrangement of elements.

PHOTO: EA.com

On the other hand, lines remain parallel, or equidistant for isometric perspective. Consequently, there is neither a horizon line nor a vanishing point. Earlier video games have adopted this graphic-style technique. Some popular ones are the SimCity series and the Civilization series. Which leads me to the other reason why isometric perspective in art is extremely appealing, as I have a strong affinity for nostalgic video games like these.

Isometric in Chinese Art

The idea of isometric perspective however dates back to the ancient times. It has been expressed and stylised most prominently in ancient traditional Chinese art scrolls. A captivating and spectacular example of how isometric perspective expressed in an ancient Chinese art is Zhang Zeduan’s most famous painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival. It was completed in the 12th century and it is regarded as China’s version of the Mona Lisa, in terms of popularity and value.

PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

It is such an intricate and informative painting that a group of royal painters remade the masterpiece during the Qing dynasty, also depicting the Qingming Festival. Unlike art with linear perspectives, you can very easily navigate through this masterpiece. You will be able to read every interesting detail, while scrutinizing the general relationship of the interactions between different sections of the painting. You can certainly focus on one section of the painting and simultaneously you will also still be able to see the bigger picture. Being able to do both, somehow lets you have a sense of power and control over the painting.

Therefore, isometric art is just strangely more tangible to grasp than any other art. They’re just so informative, packed with details and yet they can also be quite abstract. One tiny spot in the painting can affect the whole overall picture.