Thinking About How Art Was Supposed To Be Viewed…

During today’s class I was particularly intrigued by the exercise we did with the Persian documents. We compared how the documents looked with the lights on and with the lights off. As a class, we concluded that there was a difference when the documents were looked upon under a different lighting.

Seeing as these documents were constructed in the 16th century, they were not created when electricity was invented. Present day individuals forget that a great percentage of the artwork they view is not in its intended situation from when it was created. For example, we read Shakespeare plays as if they were novels. However, Shakespeare never intended his plays to be read, rather they should have only been viewed as a performance. When we relate this information back to the Persian documents, our reaction when the lights were turned off is most likely how these pieces of art were viewed at the time of their creation. While candles and natural light existed in the 16th century, modern lighting has manipulated the way we view these documents in present day. It is interesting to think about how we view art and how it was intended to be seen when it was created.

The Usage Of Images Within Texts

Today’s class in the library was quite interesting. I particularly enjoyed at the conclusion of our period when we were able to walk around and peruse everything that was presented. In particular, I enjoyed looking at adaptations of Coleridge’s The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner and Milton’s Paradise lost. These two epic poems were both presented with images pertaining to their story line. However, seeing as images within the epic poems were displayed in contrasting manners, I found it interesting to compare the two.

With The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner, only a few lines of the poem were shown on the page below a massive picture. This shifts the focus of the reader to be more interested with the picture rather than the text. In contrast, this adaptation of Paradise Lost only displayed an image every 8-10 pages or so. Because of this, the images are much more complimentary to the poem rather than becoming the main focus.

By comparing these two epic poems, we can see the challenge and methods individuals take of balancing images and text within a book or pamphlet. While it was pleasant experience looking at the images within The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner, I found it took away from the actual poem. In contrast, this version of Paradise Lost found a better balance of text and images with only displaying a photo every few page to break up the dense subject matter.

The Relationship Between Ekphrasis and Illumination

After our class discussion today, I found myself particularly interested between the relationship of ekphrasis and illumination. We discussed how they can coexist and also fail to work with each other when presented at the same time. There is no denying that when something is illuminated, the piece of art is visually enhanced. However, I would say the experience for the reader when viewing something where ekphrasis is present is more meaningful and impactful rather than simply viewing an illuminated piece of art.

My reason for this statement can be directly linked to the power of imagination. When something is left for the reader to imagine, such as it is with ekphrasis, I believe it creates a more powerful experience. Rather than being shown an image, the reader is left to interpret the text for themselves and envision what they are reading. This stance on ekphrasis is a personal opinion and I am well aware that some people might disagree.

I have always found that a successful book will force its readers to visualize what is occurring within the text. Because of this, the plot line and imagery stays with the reader for a long time because they were forced to come up with the visuals all by themselves. In contrast, when analyzing an illuminated piece of art, the image within the onlooker’s mind can be fleeting because the person is simply observing rather than creating.