Archive for May, 2011

Paul McCarthy: Piccadilly Circus (2003)

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Click on photograph for interview with McCarthy about this work


Visual Dissonance: Robert L. Solso

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Visual Dissonance is defined as a state of psychological tension caused when one experiences a disparity between what one expects to see and what one actually sees. The concept is related to a well-known phenomenon in social psychology called cognitive dissonance, which happens when we perceive a discrepency among our attitudes and/or our behaviour. Our eyes see the world of art with a thousand expectations based on our personality and our cognitive structure (knowledge system). Sometimes these expectations are fulfilled, sometimes not. In the case of unfulfilled expectations, the viewer is required to resolve his or her tension, or simply to abandon the piece and consider another. An important part of human motivation is found in dissonance reduction, in that people do not (normally) choose to live in a state of psychological tension. In psychological terms, such a state is aversive, to be avoided or resolved. (Solso 1933: 235)

Much of art has been purposely designed to generate a form of creative tension in the viewer that cries out for resolution. In many forms of classic art, the artist presented social issues that embarrassed the establishment, while many contemporary artists present visual statements about art, religion, psychoanalysis, as well as social conditions. All of these are intended to motivate the thinking person to find a deeper meaning in the art. Although these disturbing art forms may not be as comforting as viewing a Norman Rockwell illustration, they demand active participation in the construction of “reality.” (Solso 1933: 237)

Solso. R. L. (1933) The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain. London. MIT Press.

Facial perception and distortion

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

bacon study of a man talking,

Few artists have been able to convey unnerving anguish in their paintings as has Bacon. One device for which he is known is distorting the human face to the point that it becomes distressing to the viewer. In this example shown here (Study of a Man Talking, 1981) the man’s face is all a blur. It is difficult to view this painting without an emotional response. These human reactions are widespread and suggest that facial perception stimulates the limbic system (tied to emotional responses) as well as visual recognition centers. (Solso 1933: 142)

Slime head video

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2011 by pauljohnwhite


Slime head photos

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Traditional Ways of Understanding Art: Psychophysical Dualism

Traditionally, art scholars have approached the understanding of art from the position that art exists in the “real” world while the experience of art takes place inside the mind of the observer. That is, experienced art is subjective…a book on art appreciation confirms: “The artist produces a visual statement which in turn becomes the subject matter for a response or reaction from the observer” (Knobler 1967, p. 3). Other dualistic notions suggest that art satisfies a human need much as nourishment assuages hunger. “The human imagination requires food as imperiously as the human body, and art is the inexhaustible spring from which our imagination draws sustinance” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1958, p. 442). The seperation between what is in the world of art and what is in your head, and how what is in your head influences what you get out of art, are expressed by Janson in his popular book on art history: “If we are going to get the most out of art, we will have to learn how to look and think for ourselves in an intelligent way” (Janson 1991)

While such an approach engages a time-honored philosophical position that seperates the physical universe from the mind, from what we now know about the way the brain processes sensory signals we can reasonably conclude that this represents an artificial division. (Solso 1933: pp19-21)