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Aesthetics Theory
Iowa State University

AN AESTHETIC THEORY OF VISUAL COMMUNICATION One of the most important pieces of the visual communication puzzle is aesthetics. The nature of beauty and why it affects us so deeply is mysterious. Why do qualities so elusive to define (like a sunset or a half-opened rose) affect us so powerfully? This is an important question to consider in visual communication. It is suggested that, because of the essentially nonverbal nature of aesthetics, what can be written is only speculation "about" the nature of visual aesthetics and cannot therefore be "of" visual aesthetics itself. The aesthetic aspects of communication are (a) visible, structural, and configurational in nature; (b) largely implicit in apprehension; (c) holistic in conveying meaning (not wholly translatable into parsed, discursive form); and (d) cognitive in a generative sense, based on a unique type of visual logic. Three disciplinesphilosophy, art, and sciencehave been used historically to study issues about visual aesthetics. Of these disciplines the visual arts offer the most complete and truly visual understanding. The sciences increasingly can, however, offer factual evidence for defining how aesthetic qualities play a foundational role in human communications. THE PHILOSOPHIC PERSPECTIVE Aesthetics is traditionally defined as "the study and theory of beauty and of the psychological responses to it" (Neufeldt & Guralnik D. E., 1998); the term specifically refers to the branch of philosophy dealing with art, its creative sources, forms, and effects. This definition forms a convenient launching point toward a much wider application of aesthetic phenomena to all visual communications, but it is only a starting point. A brief historical review will outline the problem philosophers have had articulating a theory ofbeauty. Plato's analysis of beautyin bodies, in souls, in knowledgeattempted to describe the affective dimensions (based on a "love" of something) of the aesthetic
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response. His approach became increasingly more abstract until it evolved as a Theory of Forms based on what he determined to be properties that beautiful things have in common (Dickie, 1971). Subsequent philosophers, such as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, continued the development of form theory in terms of an analysis of more practical objects from the world of experience. In the Renaissance, the evolving theory of art defined beauty in terms of a harmony of parts. In the 18th century, however, philosophers added notions of the sublime and a philosophy of taste, which made notions of beauty more subjective and diffuse and contributed to the fragmentation of the theory of beauty. In other words, a useful theory of beauty based on proportion, unity, and other commonly considered dimensions could not be agreed upon. As Newton (1962, p. 11) observed, "Beauty could not be described, therefore it could not be defined." In response, British thinkers and the German philosopher Kant sought a unified theory in the realm of esthetic theory, in which cognitive and affective responses were recognized, but within a personal context that permitted individualistic appreciation of beauty. In more recent times, aesthetic theory has articulated two dimensionsthe quality itself and the response to it. The aesthetic response, then, is the object of the search. Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that is rich in discursive theory and interpretative speculation, but not totally helpful in understanding the role aesthetic qualities play in visual communication. Visual aesthetics are visual in foundation and holistic in understanding. As the 19th-century artist Paul Cezanne observed, "Talking about art is almost useless" (Rewald, 1976, p. 303).

Philosophy is based on verbal discursive and parsed explication and follows logical, linear construction. The thousands of philosophical arguments for aesthetics advanced historically are based on thought and expression of a different order and character from visual creation and communication themselves. Thus, philosophical arguments may prove more of a distraction from exploration of aesthetic aspects of visual communication than an aid to understanding. A biologically based (from recent discoveries in neuroscience) understanding of aesthetics could encompass many diverse philosophical arguments and give a more stable foundation for understanding visual communication.

Using visual and intuitive experimentation, artists provide a complementary body of knowledge and understanding on aesthetic visual communication. Although science provides explicit explanations of aesthetic response, the discipline of art provides a unique visually based perspective on the role of aesthetics in communication. Artists, as the makers of visual messages, are infinitely connected to subtle aesthetic clues, their selection, manipulation, and ultimate refinement. This knowledge of aesthetic relationships, gained through visual performance, provides a permanent visual record of decisions made and wordless aesthetic relationships established. What is suggested (Dake, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2000) is a form of qualitative action research utilizing observed and expressed studio ideas of artists (artists' preparatory sketches,

maquettes, diaries, letters, photographs of developing artworks) correlated with findings from the sciences. Analogical agreement from this perspective provides a critical, factbased filter for expanding understanding of aesthetic communication. Where science and art provide compatible perspectives, there is hope for a more objective theory of visual aesthetic communication. THE SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE Much scientific research on aesthetics has been generated in the biological and social sciences. One branch of knowledge yielding a promising perspective is experimental aesthetics (psychobiology). This approach to exploring aesthetic communication has generally focused on the responsiveness of individuals to aesthetic properties. Over the past 40 years, most notably in Berlyne's ecological approach to responsiveness, a more precise understanding of aesthetic relationships has been generated. Berlyne coined the term "collative properties" to define stimulus qualities that depend on comparative apprehension with present or past stimuli. Collative variables such as complexity, ambiguity, incongruity, uncertainty, surprise, novelty, and indistinctness were shown to be critical to gaining and maintaining viewer attention critical to sustaining the aesthetic experience (Berlyne, 1974). By informed shaping of aesthetic relationships, visual communicators systematically study the capacities of the visual brain using a unique set of intuitive disciplinary tools. Dr. Semir Zeki, of the International Institute of Neuroesthetics, in his book Inner Vision: An Exploration of Art and the Brain, discusses the primary importance of a brainbased disciplinary approach. 'All visual art is expressed through the brain and must therefore obey the laws of the brain, whether in conception, execution, or appreciation; no theory of aesthetics that is not substantially based on the activity of the brain is ever likely to be complete, let alone profound" (1999, p. 1). THE INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVE Studying all manner of visual communications media, not just those usually classified as art, makes it obvious that all visual communication must utilize the same human perception system as do art objects. There is no separate eye-to-brain connection for the processing of images labeled art. By looking at what is scientifically known about the way the brain processes visual information, one can learn more about the nature and functions of aesthetic aspects of perception and therefore the role that aesthetic phenomena play in visual communication. By studying art one can gain a deeper emotional and intuitive understanding of the multitude of sensitive aesthetic relationships involved in shaping an image of visual communication. Establishing a physical basis for aesthetic expression by rigorous scientific exploration and object-based artistic observation promises to help the individual overcome the current confusing, subjective understanding of aesthetics. A common expression states,


"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Although it is true that subjectivity can enlighten the individual viewer's personal response, it also obscures deeper, more dependable, transpersonal contributions made by visual communication. VISUAL AESTHETIC THOUGHT Aesthetics is not about "things" but about systems of ecological relationships and the processes that create these relationships and aid in their interpretation. The three primary players in this ecological balancing act are: the visible object itself, the maker of this object, and the intended viewer. Figure 1.1 illustrates the interactive nature of these three elements. The physical object itself contains observable relational properties among and between all the visible elements. Every line, shape, value, color, and so on, is related to the other visible elements. Creating meaningful connectedness between the developing visible form and a hoped for message is the goal of the maker. The physical, concrete nature is therefore vital to both the viewer and the maker, helping them connect and communicate. As the image-maker engages in shaping the emerging system of phenomenological elements, an intimate relationship develops between object and maker. To fully participate in the creative process, the maker must focus on all emerging physical relationships, mental nonmaterial relationships, plus the relationship to personal intentions and goals. There must also be a concern for the potential response of the viewing audience. While creating, the maker also serves as an initial viewer of the emerging image. Other viewers will also get visible information from the perception of the object. Short of explicit verbal statements of intention by the maker, the visually literate viewer needs to complete the maker's creative act by interpreting these relationships among visible relationships in the created object. Aesthetics permeates all interactions between these three components of visual communication. Relationships may not immediately reveal the exact intentions of the creator or help the viewer discover any potential hidden interpretations; but intentions, of both the maker and the viewer can alter everyone's perspective on imagistic meaning. Knowledge of meaning can become clearer through a deliberate process of analysis and interpretation. Heightened awareness of one's own mental imagery is the first step to accessing this deeper aesthetic aspect of visual communication. Object

Yiewer Maker
FIG. 1.1. Diagram of aesthetic relationships. 1. AESTHETICS THEORY 7

PERCEPTION OF AESTHETIC RELATIONSHIPS Visual Aesthetic Thought Is Configurational (Visibly Relational) Aesthetic thought is first of all structural thought. Mental imagery (thought) is made manifest in the material world. In analyzing a work of aesthetic communication, Rudolf Arnheim has made this case: "What matters is that even at this abstract level the compositional structure is grasped as a whole, namely as a configuration of perceptual components symbolizing the psychological theme of the work by direct visual reflection. The example shows also what I meant when I said that basic perceptual features point directly to the deepest meanings of the artistic statement, even though to do so they need to be seen in the structural context of the whole" (1992, p. 33). Without a physical manifestation, aesthetic qualities would not be perceivable. Without a particular holistic configuration, an image / message would be different in its impact. The qualities of both the parts (details and separate visual elements) and of the whole structure of an image are simultaneously conveyed in a specific gestalt presentation. The aesthetics are embedded in the whole. For visual communication to take place, both part (parsed and detailed) and whole (holistic and global) information need to be effectively mixed in the viewer's brain. Studies indicate that the local details of the image are processed in a module within the brain separate from the module for handling global information. A 1995 study by Heilman, Chatterjec, and Doty discovered that a global-local dichotomy "maybe related to the manner in which the right and left hemispheres respond to spatial frequencies" (p. 60). Their data shows that the right hemisphere tends to direct attention toward visual extrapersonal

space (far from the body). This makes right hemispheric processing more concerned with global matters of fuzzy, low spatial frequency. The left hemisphere, by contrast, directs attention to visual information taking place close to the body (peripersonal space with detailed, sharp, high spatial frequency). The shaping of successful aesthetic messages, therefore, must involve synchronization of two hemispheres through a process of creative visual thinking. Visual information that only considers individual parts rather than contextual relationships results in never seeing the forest for the trees. The perception and understanding of complex relationships are among the most basic contributions of aesthetic perception to visually based communication. It appears that individuals trained in visual communication and aesthetic appreciation see more of the global, contextual information as well as more detailed nameable parts. Aesthetically trained brains take in more global structural information and balance it with a subtle perception of small detailed differences. Significant aesthetic perception begins, however, before conscious awareness processes can make reasoned decisions. Aesthetic perception precedes cortical information processing and therefore any conscious awareness of associative symbolic inferences. At a very basic level, visual-perceptual processing determines the type and amount of information that is sent to the brain for further thought. Physiognomic Relationships Aesthetic perception seems to utilize large-scale aspects of visual compositional structure. These complex relationships between visual elements are not easily comprehended

in verbal terms. The designated term for these complex structural relationships is physiognomies. In aesthetic communication, what is mentally compared and correlated are basic physiognomic structures supporting and composing each image. The contribution of aesthetic thought to the construction of meaning begins with a heightened sensitivity to this foundational aesthetic structure. Such aesthetic physiognomies are not household names for objects that can be easily grasped, named, and classified. Aesthetic physiognomies are largely overlooked by the naming functions of the brain's left hemisphere. The sensitive perception of aesthetic/physiognomic qualities is present in both children and adults. According to a developmental study by Seitz and Beilin 'Adults as well as children perceive category membership as a matter of degree" (1987, p. 324). Learning to deal constructively with the fuzzy boundaries is the mental space where visual appearance-based analogies begin to form and deep meaning is based. Flexibility and Fluency Creative thinking is closely related to aesthetic apprehension because both use similar areas of the human brain. Fluency and flexibility characterize all healthy and productive visual thought. From a variety of potential visual possibilities, the maker of an image can visually judge the most potentially potent and pertinent structural message. The aesthetic quality or spirit of a visual message can then best be understood as the embodiment of a certain quality of flexibility and fluidity of thought that offers new possibilities to the viewer's mind for consideration. During the graphic ideation of visual message, designers and artists leave an indelible structural mark on images, which then sets up a potentially equally creative outcome in the viewer's mind. The quality that makes for an effective visual message emerges from a visual comparison with a variety of knowable possibilities. This quality is directly perceivable by a trained individual who sees configurational relationships in their full meaningful context, including very personal and individual relationships to the image. A verbal analysis of aesthetics only deals with one part at a time and is therefore always incomplete in description and understanding. In the creative design of visual messages, as well as in creative viewing and interpretation, flexibility of structural construction is vital. Flexibility provides for the purely perceptual apprehension of novelty, originality, and message integrity. Ritualized, stereotyped, and repetitive messages are not as likely to attract or sustain viewer attention. Therefore, the message's flexibility is crucial for discovering and imparting significant aesthetic aspects of meaning. Implicit or Hidden Aesthetic Relationships

Not all perception of the visible world is explicitly available to the maker or the viewer. Neuroscientists theorize that the brain has dual memory systems, one explicit and one implicit. Visual message designers need access to the contents of implicit perception and memory to craft messages with communicative, experiential impact. Current research tantalizingly suggests that the perception of aesthetics depends on a subconscious substrate that may not be totally a process of inductive (active) learning
1. AESTHETICS THEORY 9 FIG. 1.2. Untitled photograph, Stephen Herrnstadt, 1988 (used with permission of the artist).

or even based on enculturation. If this is true, then visual communications would not have to be learned as communication's conventions, but would be innate and support universal aspects of visual communications as is often proposed for the fine arts. Do skilled visual communicators really see more of the contents of implicit perception as well as explicit configurations made up of lines, shapes, colors, values, and so on? A 1995 study by Liu found that experienced designers show greater awareness of implicit subshapes compared to inexperienced designers. Only experienced designers could lower their thresholds of recognition activation, which allowed them to discover implicit emergent subshapes. Seeing more aesthetic forces potentially opens up a whole world of "felt" holistic structural qualities. These intuitively felt qualities of orientation, implied spaces, and the essence of empty space add significantly to both the quality and quantity of visiospatial information available to the brainthings the viewer can explicitly see and name plus felt qualities of the image that convey more patterns of meaningful forces. A comparison of three forest scene photographs by Stephen Herrnstadt in Figs. 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 illustrates both the explicit perception of holistic configurational structure and the richness of implicit relationships. Although all of these images are of nameable forms called trees, this layer of meaning does little to help us understand the aesthetic dimension of communication.
10 DAKE FIG. 1.3. Untitled photograph, Stephen Herrnstadt, 1988 (used with permission of the artist).

In the case of Fig. 1.2, there are several verticals that penetrate a textured ground in the left half of the photograph. The strongest structure is the widest with marginally more detail. The message of the verticals contrasts with the much looser and more dynamic forces of bramble of texture in the bottom half of the image, from which the verticals arise. Figure 1.3 has a quite different aesthetic structure. The verticals here have a slight tilt, which makes them more dynamic. The widest and most dominant vertical is also the darkest. The middle linear form is lightest of the three verticals and bends most dramatically toward the third vertical on the right-hand side. This highly structured area relates to the lighter, bottom two thirds of the surface, which has a looser, more linear textural feel. There is a subtle curvature of ground/tree horizon line going from upper left to lower right. When combined with the strong spreading forces of the verticals, this curvature implies a kind of strong aesthetic energy emanating from the curvature of the earth itself. Figure 1.4 also presents a dominant vertical, but in a central position. Because it is so detailed in texture compared to its surroundings, it becomes the commanding dominant focus. Some implicit relationships then create an even stronger contrast in meaning. In Fig. 1.4 the ground and horizon line are deemphasized in favor of a foggy atmospheric mist. The ambiguous depth of the background gives an otherworldly feel to
1. AESTHETICS THEORY 11 FIG. 1.4. Untitled photograph, Stephen Herrnstadt, 1987 (used with permission of the artist).

the work. When combined with the strong backlit staging, it suggests a meaning more related to dematerialized spirit than earthly concerns. Together the explicit and implicit relationships create a fuller understanding of the visual message. A comparison of the aesthetic structure of these three photographs therefore yields a quite different aesthetic basis for communication of distinct visual messages. Holistic Vision: Thinking by Appearance How is it that the viewer is able to construct meaningful patterns out of an image's visible and hidden relationships? Could there be a visual semantic structure underlying

visual communication? Dr. Betty Edwards first proposed a basic visual language structure in her book Drawing on the Artist Within (1986). Edwards described and demonstrated the expressive, communicative potential of an underlying nonobjective analog structure, visible in student exercises and works by historic artists. Takahashi (1995) presented separate scientific collaboration of this universal semantic potential. By using similar visual analogs created by a group of art students, Takahashi showed the rich potential for visual communication in underlying visual holistic structure. Analysis of these analogs by an unrelated group of nonart students identified a remarkable degree of aesthetic communication. Takahashi concluded, "This finding suggests that a

synergistic relation exists between some perceptual property and a specific word concept. The presence of specific visual structures may activate one's knowledge about kinds of affective categories" (1995, p. 681). Takahashi proposed a positive link between affective and aesthetic mental processes and later cognitive processes. The implication points to the existence of a purely visual aesthetic language based on holistic abstract structure, as revealed in outward appearance. Thinking by appearance is a function of the right hemisphere of the brain. Levy and Trevarthen concluded in a 1976 study that "The right and left hemispheres are specialized for detecting structural and functional similarities, respectively" (p. 311). The left hemisphere makes logical connections between objects that fulfill similar functions within denned categorical boundaries. Associative reasoning seems to follow the same pattern. In contrast, the right hemisphere specializes in making comparisons based purely on structural appearance. Appearance-based reasoning in the right hemisphere is largely unknown to the left hemisphere. Perception of the same images presented to the left hemisphere yield logical and functional decisions. Thus words used to interpret meaning from images can, by their linear nature, distort and convert the information in the visual communication.

Mary Peterson (1993) examined the multiple interpretive possibilities within shape memory and identified a foundational principle of aesthetic creativity she called reconstrual. She provided evidence of the vast potential for multiple mental reconstruals from a single geometric form. Instead of a singular visual recognition and categorization, Peterson suggested that in perception, "there exists a stage in which a structural description of a shape is not connected to an interpretation" (1993, p. 172). At this important stage of aesthetic perception there appears to be a rapid mental search through an imagistic mental lexicon for the best possible match with incoming visual stimuli. Awareness of the mind's ability to perform a multiple-layered search provides for imaginative perception and the discovery of possible multiple, meaningful interpretations. Figure 1.5, "Self Portrait as Pagan Fire God" by Chuck Richards, presents a novel sense of multiple meanings to the traditional subject of self-portrayal. The representation is filtered through many layers of thinking by appearance. In addition to the symmetry of religious icons, appearance comparisons recall fabricated sets of old exotic movies (such as King Kong), sacrificial rituals of distant cultures, hedonistic masks of spring revels, mythic sculptural representations of gods who need to be fed (note the eating utensils), the manipulation behind the scenes (see small Wizard of Oz-like figure in lower-left-hand corner, and the showmanship of the circus). Rich and fluid appearance thinking endows the maker and viewer with the capability to stretch and break the tight conceptual boundaries of literal meaning. Once "outside the box," the multiple series of visual relationships and spatial associations lead inevitably to multiple analogies. These embedded analogies lead to a form of poetic "visual rhyming" and then as in the case of this example to new multiple-layered meanings for self-portraiture. Who is the person being portrayed? What is the individual's self-image and his in life? What personality characteristics define this person's life? The systematic analysis of analogies yielded by these reconstruals changes
1. AESTHETICS THEORY 13 FIG. 1.5. Self-portrait as pagan fire god, Chuck Richards, 24" x 24", colored pencil (used with permission of the artist).

the aesthetic tone of an actual scene and provides a charged series of potential metaphoric meanings. A self-portrait is more that the outward appearance of the individual.

Tolerance for multilevels of meaning occurring simultaneously is prerequisite to fully understanding meaning-making in visual communication. Logical, verbal reasoning is often not the best laboratory for discovering meaningful patterns. Arthur Koestler suggests the real basis for understanding visual meaning: "The mind is insatiable for meaning, drawn from, or projected into the world of appearances, for unearthing hidden analogies which connect the unknown with the familiar, and show the familiar in an unexpected light. It weaves the raw material of experience into patterns, and connects them with other patterns" (1975, p. 390). Meaning in the world of the aesthetic visual communication can never be singular and literal because the viewer's brain will automatically make multiple connections through reconstrual. The attempt to impose singular meaning on images (through logical argument and discursive assertion) does not foreclose flexibility of appearance-based thinking. Understanding how meaning arises from aesthetic qualities requires response-ability from individuals doing creative seeing. This implies not only the ability to respond to initial physiognomic phenomena, but also the obligation to pursue the universal implications
14 DAKE FIG. 1.6. Untitled photograph, Stephen Herrnstadt, 1988 (used with permission of the artist).

within individual responses. Painter Pablo Picasso comments on the subject: "Reality is more than the thing itself. I look always for the super reality. Reality lies in how you see things. A green parrot is also a green salad and a green parrot. He who makes it only a parrot diminishes its reality. A painter who copies a tree blinds himself to the real tree. I see things otherwise. A palm tree can become a horse" (July 10, 1950, Sunday Observer). Perceived meaningful information involving reconstrued aesthetic qualities becomes a creative mental action by the viewer. Two photographic landscape images further demonstrate the diverse potential meanings generated by using thinking by appearance. The image shown in Fig. 1.6, Herrnstadt's untitled photographic work, has many possible reconstruals, new nonliteral connections beyond immediate associations. Could it be reminiscent of soldiers' corpses on a battlefield, for indeed the fallen, decaying trees on the forest probably resulted from destructive forces for organic life. The same configuration of fallen trees could also be analogous to the veins of Mother Earth herself. Through these veins would flow energy, creating further organic growth, much like decaying vegetable matter on the forest floor. The crystalline light shimmering on the organic forms transports the viewer to a transcendental and fantastic scene. None of these levels of meaning, however, forecloses a literal reading of the visible evidence. A forestry expert could make accurate scientific conclusions from the same visible evidence.
1. AESTHETICS THEORY 15 FIG. 1.7. Terminus, Mary Stieglitz, digital image, 2003 (used with permission of the artist).

Figure 1.7, Terminus, a digital print by Mary Stieglitz, presents nature up close in what appears to be the rotting carcass of an animal. The angular forms also resemble mountains rising from flat land. This relationship attaches a monumental importance to the message as a huge creature preys on the parched land. An altered sky area conjures up scenes of rusting metal, adding a decaying aesthetic. An organic beauty in this arrangement engages the viewer to carefully attend to the interplay of form and texture, as thinking by appearance lends deeper levels of meaning. Metaphoric thinking leads to far more significant meaning levels than a rotting carcass literally suggests. Visual meaning can certainly be understood through words (interpretation), deeds (visible attributes), or underlying tone (aesthetic qualities). The power of visual communication lies in relationships among these three aspects of understanding images. THE LOGIC OF VISUAL AESTHETICS How can the maker and viewer have faith and rely on a level of meaning embedded in an image? Why not opt for an imaginary construction in the mind?A central dilemma of aesthetic visual communication is whether visual images can provide evidence of important human cognitive activity or whether an image's communicative value is wholly dependent on discursive logic. Can one judge the quality, preciseness, and utility of communication by purely visual means? What makes a visual image "work" for maker and viewer alike? The final part of this chapter's theoretical proposition speculates on the full cognitive

import of aesthetic aspects of visual communication. The hypothesis is that effective


communication depends on a unique visually based logic, created through visual modules and processes of the human brain. The order and patterns of neural brain structure determine visual communication effectiveness. Visual logic is defined here as a system of visual relationships that encourages a developed internal sense of image cohesiveness, integrity, and elegance necessary to attract attention and guide the viewer to a sense of aesthetic completion and comprehension. Six individual, interlocking principles guide the development of this sense of visual logic. These six principles are (a) Ambiguity and Meaning, (b) Control of Direction, (c) Ecological Relationships, (d) Tensional, (e) Unity, and (f) Realism. Ambiguity and Meaning There are no "pictures" in the human brain, only individual neuronal responses to different elements in the image. The visual world is therefore always ambiguous (without a single level of meaning that can be clearly explained in words). Having accepted this, it is important for viewers to explore the "manner" in which meaning construction is taking place in their own brains. No amount of parsing with left hemispheric processes will alone suffice to comprehend meaning. The ambiguity and meaning principle suggests that, if aesthetic form and content are effectively related, the visually literate viewer is able to extract relevant information by concentrating on visible relationships and the nature of meaning-making in the human brain. Multiple meanings emerge later from the layered relationships with the other five principles. Control of Direction The control of direction principle suggests there are actions that the image-maker can control about the manner in which the image attains and maintains the viewer's attention and interest and elicits an aesthetic response. On the other hand, there are other aspects, such as arriving at a common uniform interpretation of meaning, that can't be dictated by the maker. Individual viewers will arrive at some degree of individual connection and relationship to the image based on their individual wants, needs, and expectations. The individual image-maker can control many aspects of "how" the viewer's perceptual system interacts with visible relationships but not the final interpretation. The maker can direct the viewer's eye throughout the image's significant areas through directional clues, groupings of elements, and tensions. The maker can also choose to emphasize certain aspects of the image and to subordinate others in order to direct the viewer's mind to significant matters. However, the sheer number of visible relationships will quickly overwhelm the parsing and decision-making functions of the brain. Intuition must therefore guide the image-maker and viewer in controlling the effect the image has on the brain. Ecological Relationships When interpreting the inherent visual logic imbedded in an image, the maker (during the act of ideation) and the viewer (in a process of perception) both become involved in

an intimate reciprocal and ecological relationship with the image. The visual structure offers parameters for perception of possible multiple meaning levels, as well as the potential for fixation on one particular meaning or focused aesthetic response. The maker, through trial and error, shapes this image, and the viewer must empathize with this relationship while at the same time understanding his or her ecological interactions with the structure. Gregory Bateson (1975) theorized that the human mind is essentially an ecological governor, controlling the body's processes to ensure that decisions are of maximal value. Because the body is part of the environment itself, appropriate mental interpretation cannot be totally fixed and objective. Through trial and error decision making, the brain compares visible structure to potential meanings. During this process, failures of judgment or aesthetic response (for example, an immediate "I don't like it," based on superficial viewing) could be viewed as positive experiences to be valued. Failures could indicate to the viewer that he or she has stretched interpretation beyond his or her past capabilities and is searching for less obvious relationships, analogies, and connections. The depth of visual logic is not always initially apparent.

Tensional Illusionistic use of spatial clues adds an implied tension with the image's true flat surface. In addition, the visual elements on the picture plane's flat surface have tensional relationships with each other, with sides of the image, and with its center of the image. The sum total of all tensions, both explicitly perceived and implicitly apprehended, creates an aesthetic impression of mood and a visible foundation for the communicated message. Generally, artists and image-makers intuitively and explicitly shape aesthetic elements to discover meaningful relationships and cause a specific brain response. Based then on the viewer's life experience with tensions in the environment, the message being communicated can be perceived as being more or less truthful. Important tensional relationships and their implied meanings are thus passed from message-maker to viewer based on normal human perceptual functions. Unity Because the brain's left hemisphere specializes in parsing information, rather than grasping it whole, the full cognitive and communicative potential of holistic gestalt forms of knowing is often overlooked (Bolles, 1991). Every effective visual message has cohesive visual forces that group visual elements (the gestalt grouping principles of similarity, proximity, closure, continuation, and common fate) into meaningful and aesthetically rewarding patterns. These underlying structures are not usually apparent to the untrained eye. Unity of message implies a wholeness of spirit or purpose that give the visual sense trustworthiness. Without unity, the experience for the viewer lacks cohesion, making communicative interpretation less sure. With unity, the viewer's own natural perceptual abilities can interpret visual clues to determine the nature and type of visual message and its relationship to reality.

Realism All imagery communicates some aspect of reality. That reality may not be a naturalistic illusion of optical conditions but conveys knowledge about aspects of reality not readily accessible to the unaided human eye (microscopic views, time-related processes, or energies outside the visible spectrum). To construct visual images, the maker has a series of clues to depth used that aid in communicating knowledge of reality. The knowledgeable viewer must be able to reinterpret these clues to meaning. Gestalt psychology provides understanding of depth clues (overlap, shadow, color, gradients, and placement) that give the viewer clues to form and space. Motion clues in moving images also shape the nature of visual evidence. Awareness of complexity and arbitrary use of visual clues is necessary for viewers to independently evaluate the visual image for veracity and importance. Application of the realism principle provides a ground of information that is either believable and true or false and manipulative. Informed visual communication must consider the medium of realism selected by the message designer and its aesthetic and affective dimensions created within the viewer. Layering Visual elements never exist in isolation; they are always effected by what is around them. What is implicitly meaningful is the larger gestalt configuration. The philosopher John Dewey stated, "To think effectively in terms of relations of qualities is as severe a demand upon thought as to think in terms of symbols, verbal and mathematical" (Dewey, 1934, p. 46). For an effective visual message to be shaped, a composite, holistic gestalt must emerge from multiple types of separate aesthetic relationships, a layering of simultaneous events. Each image contains forces and tensions; groupings; selections of depth clues; decisions made through trial, error, and reflection; and conscious design decisions directing the viewer's attention. Like geological stratum, each separate relationship represents a process of layered transparency, a unique type of visually based logic. This logic supports the process of visually based reasoning and the interpretation of the perceived message. Visual logic is based on understanding of normal functions of perceptual processing of the human nervous system. Words can only speak of one thing at a time, but images arrive holistically, everything present simultaneously. Visual logic must be understood in

a wordless way of speculating, considering, and eventually knowing. SEEKING CONSILIENCE Aesthetic exploration can lead to unique forms of knowing that are cognitive and affective at the same time. Zeki (1999) concluded that wordless modes of knowing can discover significant new knowledge, complementarily and sometimes foreshadowing science. Figure 1.8 is a painting by the author of this chapter entitled, "Thought Structure." Some years after its completion and titling, a chemist interpreted this image as an example of fractal geometry (the mathematics of asymmetry). As the artist, this was not my conscious
1. AESTHETICS THEORY 19 FIG. 1.8. Thought structure, Dennis Dake, 22-1/2" x 28", airbrush/watercolor, 1977.

intention. My intention was to capture the structure of my thoughts: Mathematics as a subject had never entered my conscious thought. The visually logical resemblance to a representation of a fractal is, however, striking. Aesthetics are the mute, unnamable aspects of visual communication that one could talk about forever. If visual communication is defined as only clarity and exactness in verbal interpretation, much potential power of visual imagery to connect human minds would be lost. Literary exactitude forces visual information through too narrow a funnel. Filtered out is some of visual language's richest potential for informational relationship. In his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, biologist Edward O. Wilson argued for the fundamental unity of all knowledge and the need to search for proof that everything is organized in terms of a small number of fundamental natural laws, underlying every branch of learning. The physical and biological sciences are now increasingly reaching such consilience, where new understandings can be based on common principles. Wilson saw the effort to bridge between the sciences and other disciplines as a great labyrinth, which must be negotiated. The greatest challenge Wilson foresaw was consilience between the sciences and the arts.
Interpretation has multiple dimensions, namely history, biography, linguistics, and aesthetic judgment. At the foundation of them all lie the material processes of the human mind.
20 DAKE Theoretically inclined critics of the past have tried many avenues into that subterranean realm, including most prominently psychoanalysis and post modernist solipsism. These approaches, which are guided largely by unaided intuition about the way the brain works, have fared badly. In the absence of a compass based on sound material knowledge, they make too many wrong turns into blind ends. If the brain is ever to be charted, and an enduring theory of the arts created as part of the enterprise, it will be by stepwise and consilient contributions from the brain sciences, psychology, and evolutionary biology. And if during this process the creative mind is to be understood, it will need collaboration between scientists and humanities scholars. (Wilson, 1998, p. 216)

This chapter has speculated on some possible connections among knowledge from the neurosciences, evidence from artistic expression, and the nature of visual aesthetic communication. Triangulation from these perspectives may generate verifiable principles and laws on which to base a disciplined understanding of aesthetic aspects of visual information exchange, a fruitful consilience.