The Conscious Act of Looking at a Painting
This paper considers what happens during the conscious act of looking at a painting. First, two widely held views about the nature of consciousness are introduced: that it’s unified and that it’s essentially rational. I then describe in some detail my experience of looking at a Monet painting, Rouen Cathedral (1892-4), and note that what I experience does not seem consistent with either of these views. In fact what I experience is a multiplicity of conflicting beliefs and thoughts, which are nevertheless co-existent. I conclude that ‘normal waking, rational consciousness’, as described by William James, may be better regarded as multiplicitous and often irrational, although this does not seem to pose any problem for the act of looking itself. Indeed it seems to be the very mark of lived, conscious experience.
Published inConsciousness, Literature and the Arts
PublisherUniversity of Lincoln
- VoR (Version of Record)
CitationPepperell, R. (2009) 'The conscious act of looking at a painting', Consciousness Literature and the Arts, Vol. 10 No. 2.
Cardiff Met Affiliation
- Cardiff School of Art and Design
Cardiff Met AuthorsRobert Pepperell
Cardiff Met Research Centre/GroupFovolab
- © The Authors