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Perception in Art - Do Titles Make a Difference?

Autor:   •  March 21, 2011  •  Essay  •  7,660 Words (31 Pages)  •  2,107 Views

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Perception in art, do titles make a difference?

Author Eva Varga Copyright 2010

The ways of perceiving art are as numerous as there are viewers of art. Perception in art is a complex mix of cognitive and emotional processing (Millis), and since Fechner's Vorschule der Asthetik in 1876, numerous findings have been reported regarding the question on which characteristics might influence aesthetic judgments and art perception in general (Augustin, Leder, Hutzler, Carbon).

The processes involved in art perception have become an area of philosophical, psychological and neurological study by intellectuals such as Kepes, Zeki, Solso, Arnheim, Ramachandran and Heirstien, to name a few.

The general research theme of many of these studies is examinging how the visual arts contribute to our understanding of the visual brain. According to Zeki (2010), the visual arts "reveals the brain's perceptual capabilities…a major function of art can thus be regarded as an extension of the function of the brain, namely, to seek knowledge about the world."

This link between science and art is informative from a practitioner of art's point of view, as understanding the way the brain interprets visual stimulus assists in conscious creative decision making, enabling the final artistic product to affect the viewer in the way the practitioner intends to.

From my research, most of these studies on art and perception focus on visual perception and explore the neural mechanisms that mediate human artistic experience, (Ramachandran and Hirstein). An area of interest to me regarding art and perception that is not touched upon in these studies, is how the title of a work, influences the viewer's perception. How does the title affect and guide the viewer's perception, their cognitive and emotional responses, to viewing artwork? Do titles contribute to or influence the meaning of an artwork being viewed? Does a difference in title affect what the viewer says about an image or which parts of an image they focus on? Does it affect the appreciation of a work?

While this essay's focus is examining whether the title of a work of art influences the viewer's perception of the work, I feel it is useful to begin with a brief overview of understandings gathered regarding the visual perception of art as well as an examination of the word perception. For the purposes of this essay the term ‘art' refers to painting in all its forms.

"Much of the ‘power of art' rests in the fact what and how we see is closely associated with what we do and believe." (Pratchenko)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines perception as the process of becoming aware or conscious of a thing or things in general; the state of


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