Sensory perception is created by arousal or stimulation which itself produces a reaction.
We are able to see an object only if the information passes through the cortex.
That explains why our vision is not simply a mechanical phenomenon but is also
connected to mental elaboration. The perception of a form induces the perception of
meaning (a symbolic process); according to Gestalt theory,
in an abstract image the whole perceptive system prevails over the sum of its parts.
Excerpt from the “Abrégé de psychologie” (“A compendium of
by J. Delay and P. Pichot, 4th edition, Editions Masson – Chapter IV / La
Aspects psychologiques et psychopathologiques (Perception.
Psychological and Psychopathological Aspects) / page 55 (translated
c) The Tau and Gelb Effect. - It combines the two preceding
When three equally spaced bright spots A, B and C are presented one after another
temporal interval between A and B is inferior to that between B and C, points A
and B are
seen as closer together than B and C.
A few optical-geometrical illusions. On the upper left side, the Müller Lyer
The dot divides the arrow’s shaft into two equal halves.
The portion on the right appears longer than the portion on the left.
On the upper right side, the oblique line is comprised of two segments which are a
continuation of each other. The upper segment appears shifted to the right.
On the lower left side, the bases of the three trapeziums are equal.
On the lower right side, the six lines are parallel.
The diagrams above show that we do not see the individual parts but the whole;
our overall view creates an optical illusion, our perception may be distorted but,
above all, all our perception reinvents the world.
Perception is not an objective reproduction of the world
- If a picture represents an apple (we can define it as round, red, judge its size, etc.),
cognition begins and the subject is identified. The apple refers to a notion of
apple which exists for the observer. It can be connected to an affective process,
for example by recalling a memory such as the smell of the pies the observer’s
grandmother used to bake. The observer is active in front of the image.
The constancy of colour:
If we ask an observer what is the colour of coal in direct sunlight,
the observer will see it as black. Similarly, a pile of snow at dusk will appear white.
And yet a photoelectric cell shows that coal in sunlight is lighter than snow at dusk.
There is a constancy of colour in our brain and meaning belongs to the person
looking at it : snow is invariably perceived as white.
The abstract image constructs us
In front of an abstract image, the observer’s symbolic process must construct the
image differently. Indeed, the observer
cannot rely on his or her experience in this case.
Abstract artwork commands mental effort and this cerebral activity is part of our development.
Understanding becomes disconcerting because there are no references;
it requires us to think harder.
Thus, the observer must make an effort to identify the image, to understand it.
Moreover, we see what we want to see or what we need to see.
Our motivation determines the field of hypothesis and as
such modifies the field of our perception.
Perception is action, the perceptive act with which we structure
the world. It is tied to what is acquired, which implies
that it evolves and that there is no absolute nature.
cf.: The empiricist theories – Piaget / the child’s developmental stages – perception is learned.
- A room is crooked, the walls are not straight.
Inside, a man touches the space, a degree of transfer occurs,
he understands the space with his hands and as such finds his bearings;
this implies that perception evolves.
- We put glasses which invert left and right on an individual.
The brain then reinvents the correct direction. Innate, acquired,
compulsive and affective perception can change with experience.
Art must be brought to everyone
We can distinguish acquired from innate in perception.
Abstract artwork does not impose a subject; it frees us from our references.
What is acquired becomes a determinant; in other words,
looking at artwork will help mental elaboration. Hence the importance of
making art accessible to a large audience: the presence of artwork improves
our knowledge and the development of our capabilities. The more artwork we
see, the more we are prepared to receive it and accept that there is
no single, unique vision of the world.