Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MIMESIS: A Definition

Mimesis is an ancient term refering to a work of art's "accuracy or the versimilitude of its presentation of an external reality." - (Adams, p1)

The concept of mimesis has been a problem for portraiture from the onset of modernization, as artists moved away from strictly represenational styles of art to more universal and abstract production (West, p157). The portraitist's production of likeness or visual imitation of the sitter made public opinions view them to be like a technician and devoid of creativity (p191). One way the modernist portraitists overcame this was to have use their painting style to reflect the character of the subject (p200)

Shearer West uses the term mimesis without giving a definition but uses it interchangably with likeness, representation, versimilitude, description (p195-6). Mimesis, however, is not meant to refer to symbols, which visually look different to how the thing they represent looks.

Mimesis featured a return in post-modern art as a parodic way to explore issues of identity (p205).

Throughout my research into portraiture, the term mimesis keeps popping up. In the sense of visual art, it refers to visual descriptiveness. There are strong parallels between mimesis and what West refers to as likeness as shown in the previously blogged definition of portraiture. There are perceptual questions which arise about mimesis, such as a curiousity around visual perception and mimesis and what makes one image a more accurate mimesis than another, bringing us back to perception, cognition, and isomorphism.

Adams, Hazard, ed. Critical Theory since Plato (Revised Edition). Florida: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992

West, Shaearer. Portraiture. From the Oxford History of Art series of Books by Oxford University Press, UK. 2004

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