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The following material references the following.  Petelin, G., 2013, Form and Context, PowerPoint presentation, Griffith University, Brisbane.

As I progress back into the depths of study I am finding my ‘academic brain’ is coming back to life- things that were confusing before are starting to make sense, academic speak is beginning to sound like a form of English I can comprehend, and new concepts are integrating with the rest of my mind’s clutter with greater ease.  This week was an interesting lecture, I can only hope all of this raw information will cook internally and become useful matter in the future.  The topic is art-writing and critique, and it can be broken down into a system of steps: Describing, Interpreting, Evaluating.

1- Description is crucial because it draws attention to the material evidence that substantiates any other claims.  The four types of description are:

  • Impressionistic- a general impression or experience
  • Phenomenological- a critical approach to understanding.  “Bracketing” our reading- why do I experience this?  How does my background and upbringing influence my perception and reaction?
  • Biographical- where was the work produced, what was happening there at that time, and in the world in general?
  • Formal- the form and context of the work

2- Interpretation

  • Formalist reading- what are the dynamics of a text?  Why are we moved to an aesthetic/emotional response?
  • Art Historical reading- researching what a text might have meant in it’s time
  • Semiotic reading- uncovering what a text can mean in contemporary culture and explaining how its signification works


  • TEXT- Form, Technique, Content
  • CON-TEXT- Everything with the text. Sensations and feelings, surroundings and circumstances, experience and knowledge

The formal elements of a drawing or art piece are as follows:

  • Line
  • Shape/Mass/Space
  • Size/Scale
  • Texture
  • Direction
  • Tone
  • Colour- Hue, Intensity, Value
  • Time and Movement

These concepts can be discussed in terms of unity or variety

  • Unity- Repetition/Rhythm, Harmony, Balance
  • Variety- Contrast, Proportion, Discord

Although many concepts and images can be perceived differently in different cultures, there exist shared human experiences that can be assist in the construction of universally recognizable work.  These are physical forces (gravity, heat, weight), psychological drives and emotions/moods. According to Victor Shklovsky, the job of art is to intensify our sensations.  He argued that art was best used to intensify our experiences by slowing down our perceptions through estrangement- making the familiar strange and the strange familiar.  Once we have seen and ‘striated’ the text, a successful text will still appear ‘smooth’.  Art leads us somewhere indirectly, thus making the arrival a surprise. In terms of narratives, this is always also true.  Narratives rely on surprise and plot twist in order to keep the audience guessing, and therefore engaged. An obvious plot is boring, and we tend to discontinue boring experiences wherever possible. The journey is the key, showing the object of interest, say as if on a canvas, immediately dead centre, again makes for an unengaging piece.  Through composition and layering we let the eye find it’s target, in time.   Many new terms and ideas to assimilate- my mind is totally striated right now.