Visual perception in far peripheral visual space and its artistic representations
Far peripheral visual field occupies the vast majority of human visual field. With some recent exceptions (Freeman & Simoncelli, 2011; Strasburger, H., Rentschler, I., & Jüttner, M., 2011; Fortenbaugh, Sanghvi, Silver & Robertson, 2012; Vishwanath et al., 2005) research on visual perception has traditionally focused on central vision, with the far peripheral visual field and the entirety of visual space still remaining fields open to investigation. The present research integrated artistic and scientific knowledgetocontributeto our understanding of the relationship between those two disciplines and to investigate that complex phenomenon that goes under the name of visual experience.Linear perspective is a simple and effective way to depict the physical world on a flat surface. Nowadays the vast majority of cameras and digital media rely on the principles of linear perspective, making it the most used method in western society to visually depict a scene. Starting from the common ground that linear perspective shares with light â€“which travels in straight linesâ€”, many scientists have claimed that it is the optimal way to represent our visual experience (Gombrich, 1960; Pirenne, 1970; Gibson, 1971; Ward, 1976; RehkÃ¤mper, 2003). However, human perception does not simply record the geometrical projection of light paths hitting our retina, but it is a complex and active process which interprets sensory inputs and reconstructs a useful representation of the surrounding environment, enabling us to navigate in the space. Although scientists generally agree that visual perception does not correspond faithfully to the geometry of physical space (Ogle, 1964; Koenderink, Van Doorn, & Lappin, 2000; Hatfield, 2003; Foley et al. 2004; Wagner, 2006; Koenderink & van Doorn, 2008) the nature of this relationship is far from being fully understood. This research is part of the bigger interdisciplinary project, Fovography, undertaken with Prof. Robert Pepperell and Alistair Burleigh, that combines art, psychology and engineering to generate artistically manipulated images reproducing key characteristics of human visual perception. The main aim of the
current thesis is to investigate the perceived structure of visual space in the far peripheral visual field and in its artistic representations on pictorial space. Results from this body of work provide evidence for the existence of an underlying structure of visual space, that has often been reflected by artists (Pepperell & Haertel; 2014; Mather, 2015; Koenderink, van Doorn, Pinna, & Pepperell, 2016; Crawford, 2018). Results have shown a visual pattern consisting of perceiving equally sized objects enlarged when presented in central compared to peripheral vision. This visual pattern has been found both under brief and ad libitum time exposures, using both psychophysical and drawing tasks, and evidence suggest it to be a stable characteristic of the phenomenology of human visual experience. Artistically manipulated photographs reproducing a geometry similar to this visual pattern were preferred to the ones using standard projections and the effect was stronger if compared to the real space depicted in the photographs. Finally, results from manipulation of character size in Trecento Sienese and Florentine paintings tested both an original hypothesis about the correspondence between visual perception and imagined visual space and an alternative hypothesis from art history. Results confirmed the important role of characters' size in paintings' compositions, showing converging evidence from both physiological measures of visual attention and qualitative analysis of paintings descriptions. Research investigating imaginary space provided useful insight on the relationship between visual space and its different pictorial representations. The original contribution to knowledge of the present PhD consists in developing novel methods and approaches for collecting and analyzing data in studies of visual phenomenology and artistic experience, participating in the development of research questions and designing novel experimental apparatuses, and experimental tools.
- School of Art and Design