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The Colour of Something

A phenomenological approach to art analysis.

This 1-hour workshop presents participants the opportunity to develop critical, analytic tools for discussing a work of art. Critiques are central to the emerging creative practitioner’s development, as both recipient and participant in the process. As a constructive, generative stage in the art-making process, art criticism teaches visual literacy, activates both mind and body, and develops an awareness of the critical context in which we as artists work. Typically grounded in a discourse of aesthetic analysis and meaning-making, critiques provide a format and language for evaluating a work of art. Within these parameters, however, there is a tendency for problematic divisions: form begins to separate from content, singular elements are considered more than the whole composition, and feelings discounted as un-critical to the perception of an artwork. By applying a phenomenological methodology to the typical format of a critique, participants will learn to use affective and sensual modes of inquiry to answer the question: what is it like to experience a work of art?

Central to a phenomenological inquiry is embodied experience and the interpretation of those experiences. By describing the conscious, embodied experience of a phenomena (in this case, the work of art) provides the opportunity to bypass rationalizations and dispassionate encounters to get to the root of how meaning is constructed. Additionally, a phenomenological analysis of art proposes that feelings are just as important to a critical engagement with art, as the ability to identify and understand symbolism and representation. Following Laura U. Marks’s method of affective analysis and E. Louis Lankford’s method of phenomenological analysis, this workshop will encourage participants to consider the work of art as emotional, sensuous and affective; psychological, pleasing or uneasy; representational, metaphorical and experiential. As Lankford notes, the phenomenological method allows for multiple true and individual variations from the dialectic of perceiver and perceived. Similarly, Marks suggests that an affective analysis may result in an incapacity to conceptualize meaning based on our perception. Therefore, this methodological approach also embraces the inconsistency and inadequacy of translating the visual into language or affect into concept.

Participants are asked to provide a digital image of an artwork to the workshop, including the artist’s name, title of the work, medium and size, and where the work has been shown (if applicable).

Visiting artist workshop presented March 16, 2016 at Thompson Rivers University.

View Powerpoint presentation.