Dissecting the Visual – Conducting Pictorial

On today’s CTS we talked why do we analyse art. We highlighted few reasons why, for instance: because close examination can reveal interesting and relevant reflections of the world we live in; a deeper level of appreciation and understanding of the world or particular issue. We were told to become a detective and analyse the art while in the museum/gallery.

We also talked on how to analyse art: get out your tool kit , style ( realistic , abstract , representational, expressive,(gesture), non-objective (no object) e.g. Jackson pollock, conceptual (nothing in the room). We were shown a conceptual art piece by Duchamp . He put an ordinary urinal in the gallery, signs it and it’ seen and understood as art.

What are the formal elements of analysing art?

  • line: actual, implied, contour and psychological,
  • shape: geometric and organic ,
  • value: how has light to dark contrast be applied,
  • light: what areas have the most light,
  • colours: e.g. primary, secondary, complementary, warm/cool , are there any meanings or suggestions imposed by its choice
  • texture: actual, simulated or subverted,
  • space: 2D/3D , shallow, deep, overlapping, exaggerated, linear, realistic, perspective
  • time: time implied, stopped time, time of reference
  • motion: implied, blurred, kinetic

A advice we were given was to describe the work literally as if to someone who cannot see it , be objective, don’t judge at this stage, describe, to examine the facts such as title, artist, dimensions, location, medium, subject, media. Title your thoughts, reactions may be validated by the learning title, does it validate your ideas? Is it vague and meant to be left to interpretation? does knowing the title give you biased experience?

The principles of design are:

  • movement/ directional forces, where the eye being led,
  • focal points, what is the focus, the dominant area, what do u notice first second 3rd
  • positive/negative area whats in the foreground/background/middle ground
  • economy/repetition – are there repeating patterns
  • promotions (scale) are the elements correct to scale

subject matter

  • are there any interactions or narratives between elements?
  • is there any symbolic meaning that you are aware of?
  • use of icon/iconography – e.g. heart = love
  • are there any themes apparent?
  • are there any references to historical timeframes?

Personal thoughts:

  • what attributes do you think the work has ?
  • do you get a meaning from the work?
  • in order to gain a deeper meaning, do you need to research further.
  • is the work to limited to the audience or freely accessible ?

Remember you are viewing the work subjectively , you might see things the others don’t and vice versa ) and this is the interesting bit, backup your thoughts with examples and a clear argument

dig deeper

  • do research on the artist, (we went through the life of Andrew Wyeth)

Looking at the artwork through a critical, conceptual framework. By using a framework we are creating a structure as a means to discuss art & design. we use it to shape our understanding and to apply meaning to the artwork. we need this in order to discuss and apply meaning in our own practice.

Research and critical theory research can be defined as providing meaning and understanding through rich description.

We also discussed what are the goals of research? and came up with for instance exploration or interpretation.


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