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Vision: the creative apprehension of reality

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Vision: the creative apprehension of reality

Wilhelm Worringer author of Abstraction and Empathy informs me that “Aesthetic enjoyment is objectified self-enjoyment”. Aesthetics is that which is pleasing in appearance, i.e. that which we find to be attractive.

What do we do when we objectify self-enjoyment? A quick answer might be that we make self-enjoyment into an object.

When we speak of “object” we generally must speak also of “subject”. We might say that the subject is the “knower” and the object is that which is “known”.

“The study of art is an indispensable part of the study of man.”

“Our experiences and ideas tend to be common but not deep, or deep but not common. We have neglected the gift of comprehending things through our senses.”

Our penchant for the facts (what can be counted or measured for distance, speed, time, or weight) has left us with a paucity of ideas for dealing with images and the meaning of those images; “we seek refuge in the more familiar medium of words…The inborn capacity to understand through the eyes has been put to sleep and must be reawakened…This limitation, however, applies not only to art, but to any object of experience”

Words can and must wait until our minds distill the categories of living that are revealed to us through our body in the process of experience. “Language cannot do the job directly it has no direct avenue for sensory contact with reality; it serves only to name what we have seen or heard or thought.”

“Unchecked self-analysis can be harmful, but so can the artificial primitiveness of the person who refuses to understand how and why he works. Modern man can, and therefore must, live with unprecedented self-awareness.” Many decades ago I asked a professor philosophy ‘what is philosophy about’; he replied that it is about radically critical self-consciousness.

Gestalt psychology has a kinship with art. Gestalt is a common German noun for shape or form derived mainly from experiments in sensory perception. “Artistic vision of reality was needed to remind scientists that most natural phenomena are not described adequately if they are analyzed piece by piece. That a whole cannot be attained by the accretion of isolated parts was not something the artist had to be told.”

“Far from being a mechanical recording of sensory elements, vision proved to be a truly creative apprehension of reality—imaginative, inventive, shrewd, and beautiful…The mind always functions as a whole…all perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention.”

Gestalt experiments made it clear that an examination of reality requires interplay between the object and the nature of the observing subject. The objective element in experience justifies the distinguishing between what is an adequate and an inadequate conception of reality. Adequate conceptions must contain a common core of truth that will permit the art to be potentially relevant to all individuals.

Quotes from Art and Visual Perception by Rudolf Arnheim, Professor Emeritus of Psychological of Art at Harvard University. His books include Film as Art 1957, Visual Thinking 1969, The Dynamics of Architectural Form 1977, and The Split and the Structure: Twenty Eight Essays” 1996.

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