The Illustration of Experience
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This thesis documents and describes a research project driven by the creative practice of an illustrator. It examines the proposition that the visual mark can act as a register of experience. The research comprises three bodies of work each of which address a specific issue within the broader context of the research proposition. Knowledge gained through practical exploration is discussed in the context of illustration as well as contemporary systems and models of aesthetic representation. Overview Chapter one discusses the origins of this research project and charts the establishment of a methodology. Working under the preliminary title The Illustration of Conversational Time and Space, the practice explores how human conversation and physical interaction can be recorded and illustrated. This research results in the title being changed to The Illustration of Experience in order to reflect a significant transition in thinking and approach. Chapter two addresses the question how can experience be illustrated? Experiences are first identified and then recorded using an established vocabulary of reflexive gestural marks. These marks are in turn subject to further investigation through a more considered system of reproduction and replication. This pursuit of a mimetic representation, I argue, creates a direct access to the actualities of the experience, as interpreted by the unconscious, and reveals a fundamental connection between phenomenological sensation and learnt aesthetic reasoning. The research proposes that the appearance of an illustration of experience is not directed by the phenomenological interpretation of an event but by the representation process itself. Chapter three challenges the conclusions of chapter two by asking how the unconscious transformation of source into experience can be illustrated? This is achieved by symbolically aligning this metaphysical transformation with the physical movement of an object through space. In doing so, the research attempts to move beyond the conventional codes of aesthetic understanding and questions illustration's traditional associations with referentiality and elucidation. The research concludes that an illustration of experience's epistemological value is heavily dependent upon the interpretation of the viewer. Chapter four expands upon the hypotheses formulated in chapter three by constructing an illustration of experience that is devoid of all mimetic reference. The research confirms the earlier understanding that mimesis is not an inherent quality in all representational art forms, but is in fact determined by the viewer's independent knowledge and understanding of the subject matter presented. It is concluded that while an illustration of experience's epistemological value is dependent upon the viewer's interpretation, interpretation is not itself contingent upon the presence of an explicit mimetic (visual) vocabulary. It has been the intention of the research to challenge existing models of illustrative communication by devising original creative structures that support the illustration of experience. Although this research identifies with a range of contemporary and historical models of enquiry, thorough searches have revealed no previous research in this area. It is therefore hoped that this research will provide a solid base from which future investigations can develop. This research project would serve as an introduction to other researchers trained as illustrators to deeply investigate the meaning and functions of their creative processes in order to reflect back on the discipline of illustration and how it might register experience.
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