Thursday, April 28, 2011

LIKENESS explored

To understand the concept of mimesis further I thought I ought to look into likeness as it is a property of portraiture as determined by Shearer West.

Likeness between a picture and the object depicted is made by the relationships between the parts (Gombrich, p34), which the audience begins to notice after a period of adjustment (p47). The degrees of adjustment that the audience has to make will determine how much likeness there is (p49).

The relationships are assessed within the paintings and also between the paintings, in the gallery and upon successive viewing over time (p51). Advances in illusionary techniques lose their power over time and become integrated into the audiences expectations (p54). Therefore achievements in visual technique become expected over time.

In terms of portraiture, this is a liberation. The idea of mimesis and likeness is flexible and will depend on the expecations of the audience for the style in which the artist has depicted the subject. Gombrich states that the limits of likeness are the "medium" and the "schema" (visual conventions which have conditioned the audience).

"Style" is a term which derives from the Roman writing instrument "stilus" (p8)

"There is no neutral naturalism. The artist, no less than the writer, needs a vocabulary before he can embark on a 'copy' of reality". - p75

"What looks like progress from the point of view of the mastery of a medium can also be viewed as decline into empty virtuousity" - p8

Gombrich argues that a picture cannot be true or false or correct or incorrect because art is conceptual (p77). Therefore he argues that in portraiture there can be no objective likeness netween the work and the subject and that art causes and is caused by "habits and expectations" (p77).

Gobmrich, Ernst. Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. Phaidon Press Limited: Oxford, 1959 (3rd Impression)

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