Visual metaphor and the ironic glance : the interaction between artist and viewer.
This study is an investigation into the communicative power of
visual metaphor and the ways in which it is used by artists. A wide
range of works of art are used to exemplify the theories presented.
The first part of the thesis is a discussion of whether the term
'metaphor' can be used to describe some of the transformations which
take place in visual art. It is shown that works of visual art produce
similar kinds of displacement of meaning as those created in verbal
metaphor. An idea for a theory of visual metaphor is put forward. Some
applications of this theory to specific works of art are discussed.
The 'ironic glance' which is characteristic of the artist and often
of the viewer is identified and explained. Historical ideas of irony are
placed in context with modern concepts. It is postulated that all
creativity requires the artist to exercise irony in his or her initial view
of the world; in making; and in the implicit assumption of a `putative
A detailed discussion of examples of visual art selected
predominantly from 1800 to the present shows that metaphorical
expression takes place in many kinds of visual art, from the allegorical
to the apparently abstract.
A discussion of the interaction between artist and viewer follows.
The concept of `distance' in the making and viewing of artworks is
considered, particularly in connection with the idea of an ironic stance.
The idea of the 'ironic glance' incorporates within it a sense of distance
in all aspects of making and looking at art.
The different ways in which artists communicate metaphorically are
discussed. The importance of 'received' knowledge, especially in
connection with the 'formal' elements of artworks and the individual
viewer's 'mental store'. is considered.
The way in which a viewer approaches art is explored' by showing
the way that metaphor directs thought in a way which paradoxically
both illuminates understanding and limits our view. The viewer's `mental
store' allows him or her to understand some artworks and through this
understanding approach other works. It is suggested that the directive
nature of metaphor means that the artist, either consciously or
subconsciously, has in mind a putative audience.
Throughout, the thesis is supported by a broad range of
reference. Similar ideas expressed by philosophers, critics, theorists of
language, poets and artists are drawn together to support the
formulation of new ideas linking metaphorical expression, irony and the
relationship of an artist to the putative viewer.