Visual Acuity

“This thou must always bear in mind, what is the nature of the whole, and what is my nature, and how this is related to that, and what kind of a part it is of what kind of a whole.”

Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

What is it that defines how we see something? It is the brain that “sees”; the eyes are merely a mechanism for channeling light. We are looking for interpretation, we don’t see things as objects per se, we see meaning and that meaning is naturally shaped by who we are, by our background, our prejudices and biases, our experience, what we have seen before, what we expect to see.

But how does this physical act of seeing convey meaning…

  • Is it shape? Outline? Contrast – light and dark? Contours? Is it the space that defines what we see?
  • Is it colour? Shade? Hue? Highlights and shadows?
  • Perhaps it is the context? Background? Setting? Placement in a location?
  • Maybe movement, the movement of the subject itself? The movement between each object or of light?

What is it about a particular conjunction of space and time that must be captured to display its essence, and what must be left out so as not to distract; what has to be shown in detail, what simply needs to be suggested.

And is it just one thing that, for us, concentrates our mind, focuses our senses, defines for us what it is we are seeing. In reality it is undoubtedly a combination of several of these factors but also undoubtedly it is not all.

And how are all these things we perceive visually, in the case of art, displayed in different subjects – a face, the sea, a dancer, a landscape, a vase? Perhaps it’s just the curve in a smile or the sadness in an eye, or the shape of a vase and the colour of a cloth and how it hangs, perhaps it’s the way a tree sits against a hill, perhaps it’s the stance of a ballet dancer, maybe the sense of balance inherent in the shapes themselves

But is it the same for each person? Do we all see things differently?

For each of us it is a subset of the whole which we respond to, not the entirety – partly this is because of what in particular we focus on, partly because of the emotion the concept itself evokes in each of us.

This is how I paint – some of what I see needs detail, needs highlighting in some way, much doesn’t; it is what I need to define what I see and feel. So the painting tells you of how I have responded to something, it allows you to see something through my eyes and invites you to perhaps reconsider your response to a landscape, a person, an action, an object. It is a conversation between us, the seed of a personal relationship. It is that instant, that moment in time.

 

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