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Seeing as sensing : the structuring of bodily experience in modern pictorial art

By Laura Anne Hutchinson


Two main arguments are developed in this thesis: first is the claim that our\ud ability to make and understand representational pictures has a natural basis in our\ud capacity to see. In this respect, I have drawn on the ideas of the visual scientist,\ud David Marr and on the theory of representation expounded by John Willats.\ud Second, I argue that the view articulated by these theorists forms a theoretical\ud backdrop for, but does not satisfactorily explain, how pictures may heighten our\ud sense of bodily presence. A central aim of this thesis is therefore to show how\ud this mode of expression is also non-arbitrarily linked to the process of seeing by\ud virtue of its relationship with our visuomotor capacities. In order to give\ud substance to these ideas, I have attempted to weave together knowledge of art\ud history with neuropsychological evidence and phenomenological philosophy.\ud In applying this view to the work of particular artists, I have largely\ud focussed on the oeuvre of Cézanne and the Cubists. However, the general form\ud of this argument is intended to have wider implications, indicating the\ud development of a stylistic tendency in modern art and showing how it differs\ud from that of the Renaissance tradition. In conclusion, my thesis expresses the\ud view that vision – and hence representation – can be divided along two separate\ud lines: one related to a conceptual form of seeing and the other related to a bodily\ud form of perception. The "crisis of representation" in the late nineteenth century is\ud therefore considered indicative of a rejection of the former mode of visuality.\ud Instead, modern artists are said to re-structure the viewing experience so that it\ud shows the reliance of sight on the body, thus permitting the beholder a more\ud active and constitutive role in the perception of art

Topics: BF, N1
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:34556

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