Reflecting Ponds:…the Trompe L'oeil of the garden….

This incredibly beautiful garden uses both water and mirrors to reflect the scene in an imaginative use of trompe l'oeil

This incredibly beautiful garden uses both water and mirrors to reflect the scene in an imaginative use of trompe l'oeil

Trompe l’oeil: origin French, literally ‘deceives the eye’.

If you are old enough to remember the 1980s (hands up anyone?)

then you no doubt remember the fashion for trompe l'oeil,

the art of hand painting life-like scenes upon a wall?

There were some wonderful examples at the time, 

but also some woeful ones, 

as happens with most fashions when they reach their zenith,

and the beauty becomes lost in the translation somewhere. 

Good painters were run off their feet trying to keep up 

with the demand for fresco features,

which largely focussed on classical architectural details,

and were often placed in buildings with no context whatsoever. 



A clever painter can truly create magical tricks of perspective

through trompe l'oeil,

and the results can be charming. 

In this case, the arches are not real, but hand painted onto a flat wall.


And of course these days,

illusions are much more simply created with wallpaper,

which is a fraction of the cost of a hand painted scene,

and there is an astonishing variety of "trickery" available.

Interestingly, most faux scene wallpapers (such as these books by Koziel)

are designed to look faux, rather than real,

which perhaps reflects where we are in social history right now.

Perhaps we want real to be real, and faux to be faux?

But there is quite another use and place for trompe l'oeil,

and that requires neither wallpaper nor paint,

but one of the most simple elements of all: water.

With clever placement, 

the stillness of the water in a reflecting pond 

is all that is required to create the illusion of forms which are not really there.


This arresting sphere was part of the World Vision Garden

at the Hampton Court Flower Show in 2013,

and it's a wonderful example of the "trickery" of reflecting water.



The two spheres represent the two halves of the world,

with the "haves" protruding and the "have nots" immersed in the water.


Reminiscent of the medieval moat,

(and a landscape detail that I suspect we will be seeing a lot more of 

over the next few years with the renewed interest in that part of history

as a source of inspiration for current fashion designs),

the infinity edge of this pool surrounding a fully glazed wall

is incredibly mesmerising as a composition. 

It relies on the simple reflecting quality of still water 

to work its magic.

It's trickery of the eye, but of a very fine form,

and is truly worthy of the term "trompe l'oeil". 

image source 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6