Towards a Syntax of Visual Delight

Riley, Howard (2009) Towards a Syntax of Visual Delight. Tracey journal. ISSN 1742-3570

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This paper correlates a fundamental insight about drawing articulated by a disparate range of thinkers associated with the visual arts: the historian Richard Brettell, the visual psychologists Richard Gregory and James J. Gibson, the expert on children’s drawings John Willats, the drawing theorist Philip Rawson and the philosopher Richard Wollheim. The term contraperception is coined to describe this common insight, and is explained as the visual equivalent of a contradiction: the dichotomy between the material surface qualities of a drawing and the illusion of spatial depth produced by the combination of marks upon the surface. The tension between these two is what Wollheim termed the visual delight factor in drawings. The paper proposes that nurturing an awareness of such tension could be a prime objective in the teaching of drawing, and offers a taxonomy of drawn visual elements, their combinations upon a surface, and what those combinations might represent in the virtual space of a drawing, as a basis for a curriculum of drawing activities. Students’ drawings illustrate how sensitivities towards scale, proportion and contrast, for example, might be developed as components of an intelligence of seeing (Riley 2001) which would enhance the widest range of contemporary visual arts practices.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Drawing
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NC Drawing Design Illustration
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Wales Institute for Science & Art (WISA) > Academic Discipline: Art & Media
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Depositing User: John Dalling
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2011 13:39
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2023 11:12

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