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    Apprehending paintings: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experience of viewing art

    Starr, Rachel (2020) Apprehending paintings: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experience of viewing art. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    The experience of viewing art is typically considered to reflect a complex relationship between numerous interdependent factors. Psychological investigations are predominantly experimental. Aspects of the art-object and the perceptual, cognitive and emotional processing of it, are variously explored. Visual-stimuli and personal responses are quantified and measured whilst trying to accommodate the many contextual and individual factors potentially involved. Difficulties presented by quantification within art-viewing research are often acknowledged. Influential variables resist clear definition and constructs may lack standardisation. This thesis presents an exploration of art-viewing from an alternative perspective. The work here is concerned specifically with paintings. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis has been used to explore a collection of single encounters between one viewer and one image. Two studies are presented. In the first, five participants were each asked to select an unfamiliar painting from a collection provided. In the second, twelve participants looked at the painting Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez. Semi-structured interviews were conducted whilst participant and researcher viewed the image together. Both studies revealed a similar thematic arc. Initial themes regarding the inceptive moments of viewing emerged. Here the first grasps of attention and notable penetrating aspects of early engagement were described. Subsequently, themes involving deeper, extended interpretive activities were suggested. Paintings were descending into and explored and imaginative work flourished. Finally, in both studies, self-reflective experiences were recounted. Viewers considered and appraised their viewing activities and abilities. Self-evaluations and judgements collided with expectations and emotional responses. Overall it was revealed that notions of space, layerings and dynamic interaction pervaded the experiences described. Movements between positions both psychical and physical were suggested throughout. As a means to think about such momentums, the research concludes by considering accounts of seeing and being seen provided by phenomenological philosophy.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2020 17:19
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:23


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