Yin Ning Kwok

A Five-Dimensional Approach to Conceptualizing the Interplay of Image, Emotions, and Senses

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Studies in Visual Arts and Communication – an international journal / December 2016 3(2)


The chief objective of the proposed paper is to show in what ways the interplay of image, emotions, and senses can be conceptualized and analysed by adopting a five-dimensional approach.  By doing so, different kinds of emotional and sensorial engagement with images, especially painting and their origins can be traced in the process of art reception during which an embodied multisensory perception of images and the interaction of emotion and cognition are carried out as well as the interplay of the senses in the process of constitution of meanings and feelings.  The five dimensions from which sensorial and emotional engagements take place are the expressed, which is what a painting’s general message is understood by the viewer; the dimension of the method, which includes the methods, techniques, or approaches adopted by a painter to represent the expressed; the dimension of the picture, which is the painting itself as an object showing the presented features on the canvas or on a surface as a denotation system presenting the pictorial cues of the painting; the dimension of the unfolding process, which is carried out by the spectator when unfolding the development of a painting’s pictorial features; and the dimension of the dwelling process, which encompasses the effects or emotions experienced by the spectator as induced in the process of contemplating a painting.  The major scholars selected in this paper are Ernst Gombrich’s Art and Illusion; Nelson Goodman’s Of Mind and Other Matter; Alberti’s On Painting; Svetlana Alpers’s The Art of Describing; Norman Bryson’s Vision and Painting; Gilles Deleuze’s Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation; and Michael Fried’s Absorption and Theatricality.  These scholarly works bring light to the cognitive, sensorial and emotional engagements taking place on the five dimensions.

Keywords: painting, art reception, sensorial experience, sensational engagement, emotional reactions, and feelings

Biographical note

Yin Ning Kwok (Elaine) holds a PhD from the University of Hong Kong and is teaching two courses on Chinese art history for an MA program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and teaching four courses on Western art history for a BA program at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (offshore campus in HK). Her doctorate thesis entitled “The European Reception of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 1600-1860” traces the evolution pattern of and analyzes the factors affecting the cross-cultural interaction between Europe and China in the period. Her research interests embrace art history and the aesthetics of Western and Chinese arts.