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A Defence of the Study of Visual Perception in Art

Geary, James Bernard (2017) A Defence of the Study of Visual Perception in Art. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the use of the science of visual perception in the study of art. I argue that this application of perceptual psychology and physiology has been neglected in recent years, but contend that it is being revived by writers such as John Onians. I apply recent scientific research to demonstrate what can be learned about depiction from the science of perception. The thesis uses the science of perception to argue that there are four main interlinked components in depiction. It argues that each of these components can be better understood by using the science of vision. Chapter 1 examines one component, namely resemblance. It uses studies of the retina, centre-surround cells, and attentional processes to examine how a picture can vary in appearance from its subject matter, yet still represent it. Chapter 2 examines a second component, namely informativeness. It applies Biederman's psychological theory of recognition-by-components to argue that the depiction of volumetric forms depends on the depiction of the vertices of such objects, as well as that of linear perspective. From this the chapter argues that the notion of informativeness, as developed by Lopes, should be combined with a notion of resemblance to create a more complete theory. Chapter 3 examines a third component of depiction, namely that pictures can include, omit, and distort the features of their subjects. The psychological theory of scales, as developed by Oliva and Schyns, is used to explain certain kinds of depictions of fabrics, and the perception of Pointillist paintings. The chapter also examines the issue of to what extent perception and depiction are dependent on culture rather than genetics, and shows how a combination of scientific methodology, in the form of cross-cultural psychology, and historiography, in the form of Baxandall's 'period eye' approach, can be used to investigate this issue. Chapter 4 examines a fourth component of depiction, namely the organisation of pictures. It uses studies by Westphal-Fitch et al., and Võ and Wolfe to analyse the patterns of Waldalgesheim art, and the images in the Book of Kells. By using the science of visual perception, I arrive at the conclusion that a combination of theories of recognition, informativeness, and order, developed in Chapters 1, 2, and 4, together with theories of visual decomposition, processing, and recomposition, developed in Chapter 3, form a basis for understanding depiction.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Newall, Michael
Thesis advisor: Maes, Hans
Uncontrolled keywords: Art Cognitive Psychology Abstract Decorative Ornament Figurative Recognition Visual Perception
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2017 13:55 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 19:39 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/63885 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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