Art and visual perception by Rudolf Arnheim
A Psychology of the Creative Eye.
great book on study of arts - explains how the eye organizes visual
material according to definite psychological laws. There so much to take
notes from this book and hence I am writing down couple of them]
Any stimulus pattern tends to be seen in such a way that the resulting structure is as simple as the given conditions permit.
an absolute sense, a folks song is simpler than a symphony and a
child’s drawing is simpler than a painting by Tiepolo. But we must also
consider relative simplicity which applied to every complexity level.
Compositions by adults are rarely as simple as the conceptions of
children; when they are we tend to doubt the maturity of the maker. This
is because the human brain is the most complex mechanism in nature and
when a person fashions a statement that is to be worthy of him, he must
make it rich enough to reflect the richness of his mind. Simple objects
may please and satisfy us by serving limited functions appropriately,
but all true works of art are quite complex even when look ‘simple’.
works of art are complex, but we also praise them for “having
simplicity’, by which we mean that they organize a wealth of meaning and
form in an overall structure that clearly defines the place and
function of every detail in whole. This way of organizing a needed
structure in the simplest way may be called its orderliness.
of any part depends, to a greater or lesser extent, on the structure of
the whole, and the whole in turn is influenced by the nature of its
parts. If they carried too much expression of their own, they would have
marred the unity of the whole work. This is why dancers, who speak
through their bodies, often wear deliberately blank facial expressions;
and it is why Picasso, after experimenting with sketches of rather
complex hands and figures for his Guernica, made them much simpler in
the final work.
the first stage of the first dimension, spatial conception is limited
to a linear track. There is no specification of shape. A
two-dimensional conception brings two great enrichments. First, it
offers extension in space and therefore the varieties if size and shape:
Second, it adds to mere distance the differences in direction and
orientation. Three-dimensional space, finally, offers complete freedom:
shape extending in any perceivable direction, unlimited arrangements of
objects, and the totally mobility of a swallow. Beyond these three
spatial dimensions visual imagery cannot reach; the range can be
extended only by intellectual construction.
colors, red and green, being of equal intensity, divided retinal
activity into equal halves, whereas yellow and violet were produced by a
ratio of three to one and orange and blue in the ratio of two to one.
(Green & Red -1/2; Blue (1/3)& orange(2/3), violet(1/4)&
yellow(3/4), black(0) & white(1))
motion is the strongest visual appeal to attention. Motion implies a
change in the conditions of the environment, and change may require
reaction. The three variables of the later system are qualitative:
space refers to the path of the movement, which may be straight and
direct or flexible and indirect; Force indicates the difference between
vigorous strength and delicate weightlessness; Time distinguishes
between slow lingering and a sudden start. In conceiving of his or her
activities from the outside but by understanding the impulses that
produce the desired effect. What a dancer or actor wishes to obtain is
not like the sign language of a semaphore transmitting its coded message
to the intellect of the recipient by gesticulation. It is rather a
pattern of visual forces, whose impact is immediately felt.
however to speak of movement is obviously metaphorical when one refers
to painting, sculpture, architecture, or photography, where nothing
moves physically, what precisely is the nature of the visual phenomenon
thus desired? The one theory prevalent among philosophers and
psychologists avoids the challenge by asserting that in such cases the
observer is under the illusion that actual locomotion is taking place or
more subtly but less clearly that the image feels as though it were in
motion – perhaps because the viewer generates within his own body
appropriate kinesthetic reactions. This latter theory can be found in
Hermann Rorschach’s discussion of movement response to his inkblots.