peter combe creates complex optical illusions with layered paint chip portraits
image © designboom




consumed by ‘the subtle magic that occurs when playing with light, color and movement’, san francisco-based artist peter combe forms illusionary impressions using thousands of paint swatches. at SCOPE miami beach, robert fontaine gallery presents a selection of combe’s striking portraits that subtly transform as the viewer shifts in perspective and vantage point. the large-scale images depict the likeness of characters such as ‘green eyed connor’ and ‘blue eyed sam’, illustrating each figure’s distinct facial features from a far-reaching array of tones and hues.

detail of ‘pietro (boselli)’, 2015
image © designboom



a palette of more than 1,000 colors are incrementally laid out into groups based on tonal value. painstakingly punched and arranged discs are set at a 45 degree angle from the working surface and carefully laid out in an intricate configuration that resembles the multi-layered scales of a fish. forming an even more complex illusion, the saturated spaces face down, away from the viewer, making the mere reflection of color against its neighboring white swatch the creator of the overall impression.


‘the artworks are many layered and full of experimentation, sometimes subtle and at other times less so,’ combe says. ‘I enjoy the science of color, how the implementation of a singlecolor, when applied to a small incremental tonal range, can transform a work either subtly or substantially. oftentimes I repeat an image, yet each permutation is unique.  will rework the image multiple times working through differentcolor designations. often this effect alters the subsequent works in subtle ways while in others the change appears dramatic.’

a paint palette of more than 1,000 colors are incrementally laid out into groups based on tonal value
image © designboom

the saturated swatches face down, away from the viewer
image © designboom

painstakingly punched and arranged discs are set at a 45 degree angle from the working surface
image © designboom

the portraits subtly transform as the viewer shifts in perspective and vantage point
image © designboom

a detail reveals the array of colored swatches used in the making of each large scale portrait 
image © designboom

‘blue eyed sam’, 2015
image courtesy of robert fontaine gallery

‘green eyed connor’, 2015
image courtesy of robert fontaine gallery

work in progress — the artist carefully inserts circular paint swatches in their designated space 
image courtesy of peter combe