some remarks on perception
A nice little topic. Good enough for a book or a university course 😉. My small contribution is of course just scratching the surface. Nonetheless, it can bring up one aspect or another to reflect on how we perceive or why we see the way we do.
First of all, may I ask you to look at this picture of Roy Lichtenstein and ask yourself the question: “What am I seeing?”. It’s not a quiz and there’s nothing to win – except insights.
Many years ago I read an article about viewing habits. A certain audience was asked the question (sort of): “Do you think we all see the same thing when we look at something?” One of the responses was something like: “Stupid question. You see the house over there and I see the same house over there. Why should we see anything but the house”. The majority of respondents said we all see the same thing. And that sounds kind of reasonable.
And yet it’s not true. We can’t even believe our own eyes.
e.g. Let’s look at this gif of a mask – from outside and inside.
Why do we see it like this? For 100.000+ years we have learned that a face must always be convex. But if we see a face shown in a concave shape, our reptilian brain intervenes and switches to convex.
Of course, we come across the same phenomenon when looking at artifacts from other cultures. It takes time, patience, and intensive examination until we have adapted our viewing habits and even more of it until we can judge (content, quality, importance…) according to the rules of the respective culture. But then it can be that we just see things differently.
Example Roy Lichtenstein
So first, let’s look at this sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein again that another blogger posted last week.
When I look at it, the first thing I see, unsurprisingly, is a bird perched on a branch, just as they abound in Asian paintings . So, due to my many years of intensive involvement with Asian painting, I can not help but take this perspective. I don’t know the background to Lichtenstein’s sculpture, but I’m very sure that he played with the Asian context. Coincidence? No. Here is another example with a painting and he did several of this kind which is all after Asian brushwork.
Example Mike Utley
There are many great bloggers here who post beautiful photos and I could say a few things about many of them, but Mike Utley’s work stands out and so I chose one of his. When I saw his first photos, I was surprised by how strong Asian points of view can be discerned. Only later did I see that he also writes wonderful haiku and that’s when the connection became clearer to me.
Here is one of his haiku: (#220)
holes in the pockets
of my soul; I lost myself
somewhere on the way
So when I see a work by Mike Utley, two perspectives run parallel in my head. The Western and the Asian. The sketch below should illustrate this.
From a Western point of view (image middle) the picture is horizontally divided into thirds (directly under the upper third there is even a strong line that defines the upper third), but at the same time there is also a (mental) horizontal line (orange) exactly in the middle and one in the middle vertical line which separates the upper, light, and lower, dark part. Our western eye loves that kind of thing, so we naturally like the photo. It appears balanced and stable, and that underscores the calmness of the image.
If I look at Mike’s photo from an Asian point of view, I first see a different construction (the main lines of force in light blue) and I see 2 vanishing points (green and darker blue), something that is used very often in Asian art, but with us up to van Gogh did not exist. (to the best of my knowledge. Especially his last painting shows that very strong). And van Gogh had it again from the Japanese woodcuts, which made a deep impression on him. 
So if you split the photo by Mike Utley horizontally, the upper vanishing point leads into the distance, the lower one deep into the water. A way of seeing that is deeply Asian, even if it is also increasingly seen in Western works.
What also evokes Asian associations in Mike’s photo is communication (the central theme in Asian art). The clouds communicate with their reflection as well as with the pieces of rock below. In addition, the “soft” communicates with the “hard”. Since Mike, as he says, has not dealt very intensively with Asian art, it seems to me that something “Asian” has flowed into his work through his haiku.
Pure Western work
Of course, we all know the importance of compositions. When we, as art lovers, look at Western paintings, we all too often forget how important the composition of the picture was, of course, in Western classical painting as well. Even if we don’t consciously notice it, it has a decisive influence on our impression of a work. As an example, I would like to cite this painting by Caravaggio. I came across this outline through the Facebook group ArtLife and got the graphics from there.
Once we have seen the picture structured in this form, this striking line of force, which appears as an arch, has taken hold in our vision, and our way of seeing has already changed.
We can further explore the picture and will get a completely different perspective through our new understanding of construction. [3)
For painters like Cezanne, the construction (above all cone, cube, sphere) was not only at the center of his vision, without it almost all of his pictures are unimaginable.
I don’t think I need to give any more examples, there’s so much good literature out there. Quintessence: We should be aware – to put it simply – that our eyes do nothing more than absorb light and transmit it to our brain. And there the information is interpreted and converted – according to our disposition – naturally, culturally, learned…. This short post was only touching on the question “why do we see how” – and no, we don’t all see the same thing when we look at “the house in front of us” 😊. 
A little extra
My last post touched on the subject of Zen. I’ve finally found one of my earlier works that go well with it since I’ve played with one of the most popular kōan (公案): The Sound of One Hand Clapping.
Here is the kōan: Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand? (隻手声あり、その声を聞け) — Hakuin Ekaku
 Link: https://www.metmuseum.org/
明/清 項聖謨 山水花鳥圖 冊, Xiang Shengmo (1597–1658). From an album of eight paintings; ink and color on paper, 28.3 x 22.5 cm. Credit Line: Edward Elliott Family Collection, Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1981
 I can recall coming across 2 different articles stating that this painting would be clear evidence that van Gogh was schizophrenic of late – the divergent vanishing points would prove that.
 I wrote about aspects of composition in Chinese painting HERE and the balance HERE. More articles under ART THEORY
 I only took out the construction, because that is our topic today, but of course, the same applies to oil paints, for example. Every school, indeed often every painter, had their little secrets that are not obvious at first glance, but of course influence the perception of the viewer.
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