“They are not only human minds, but they are human beings! Their brains are as hard as diamonds! That’s what you need here.”
— M.A. L’Étang, Le Débouche
It may seem weird that most artists have a blind spot when it comes to the subject of visual imagery, but it’s true. The problem isn’t just that artists don’t have a particular affinity for the eyes; quite the opposite: the mind is the most important organ in vision. What do the eyes do? They detect the distance to something we refer to as ‘the object’, in a very specific sense. A simple example: imagine a brick wall from 10 feet away. It’s very difficult to detect a ‘brickset’ – a small distance from your eye and one to three inches. This distance is a huge distance, which requires an incredible amount of attention and will be reflected in an artist’s performance. There are, of course, other forms of visual imagery: for example, the optical illusions that I described here, or the mind’s “visual map”, a sort of mental map of the place that is seen, which is made up of mental elements (e.g., the shapes and colours). But visual imagery needs attention to be created visually.
I’m sure artists have spent many hours reading their own works. The process of reading can be described as “reading” when the brain uses sensory perception to look for mental elements in a work, or “reading” when the brain uses conceptual knowledge to look for mental elements in a work. To sum up here: it’s easy for artists to read.
What if our creative works are no more than ‘senses’?
That’s not an uncommon hypothesis, but it’s certainly not a unique one. In fact, the notion that our creative works are nothing but ‘sensors’ is quite common. Perhaps artists believe that to be true because in a world where they are unable to read and manipulate their work, they would find it “too easy” to manipulate a text. Well, here is the point, because we know that our brain uses imagery to interpret information. Visual imagery is what makes up the actual text. We are not a visual world without our eyes; in fact, we’re visual worlds using your eyes to create text!
Imagine reading a work of art on a very fine book. It doesn’t have a printed ‘face’, its cover does. The book
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