Explain why the processes of looking closely and thinking critically about visual texts are important to art and design practices.
By looking closely and thinking critically about a visual text you are able to gain a deeper understanding of the text. This comes in many forms, from understanding the context surrounding the visual text, being able to interpret the artist’s intentions behind the text, and applying this enhanced understanding to your own work as an artist or designer.
Understanding the context behind a visual text is important to understanding a visual text itself. Michael Clark discusses the importance of context in Verbalising the Visual: Translating Art and Design into Words, “all artefacts are products of specific conditions, social, economic, technical, cultural, both the character of the object and how it was understood at the time are determined by these factors.”(Clarke 25) Learning these specific conditions surrounding a visual text can help contextualise it and aid to understanding the intention of the artist in the specific conditions. Mirzoeff adds to this, exploring the idea visual imagery in the world being in a state of constant change and contextualising a visual text can also prevent you from viewing the art with any prejudice and look at the text objectively. (Mirzoeff 3-11)
An example of the importance of looking closely at a visual text is the Te Papa Dreamworks Animation Exhibit. The whole concept of this exhibit is to not take the animation films at face value and dig deeper, to see the huge amount of work that goes into creating each scene. The exhibit is warm, entertaining and informative. By thinking critically about the exhibit details that normally go unnoticed such as the sound of familiar Dreamworks music playing in the room, location of big bubbly signs around the room, immersive movies and even the low ceiling and lush carpets become noticed and analysed as to their effect, all chosen carefully to serve the artist’s purpose- to create an engaging exhibit that entertains both adults and children.
As an artist or a designer being able to critically examine other artist’s visual texts allows one to dissect their work and apply the same techniques to their own work. This is important in art and design practices as without understanding the techniques of how to manipulate an audience into seeing what you want them to see, you cannot create a fully compelling visual text. “To be made to look, to try to get someone else to look at something you want to be noticed, or to engage in an exchange of looks entails a play of power.” (Sturken, Marita and Cartwright 9) This is something that design students are taught by studying other artists and the way they use aspects such as fundamental design principals in their work to create more successful compositions.
Overall art and design is all about thinking critically about visual texts and unpacking their meaning. It is a skill required by all successful people in the art world, which is why it is so prevalent in the world we live in and there are so many opportunities for people to look closer and with a critical eye in our own lives. By looking at other artist’s visual texts that surround us in everyday lives we can then apply their techniques to our own as well as gaining a greater understanding of our world.
Clarke, Michael. “Language and Meaning” Verbalising the Visual: Translating Art and Design into Words. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Publishing, 2007. Page 25. Print.
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “Introduction”. How to See the World. London: Pelican, 2015. 1-27. Print.
Sturken, Marita and Lisa Cartwright. “Images, Power and Politics” Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York, Oxford University Press, 2009. 9-48. Print.