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Sunday, 17 January 2010

Perception is in the eye of the beholder

Perception and knowledge is a curious thing. The top picture, when I first saw it and I found out that it was by an artist working in New York, I could see a 3D map of a cross road in that city with four skyscrapers looming out towards me at each corners. The Avenue at the crossing was obviously called Delaware.

The knowledge there is an iconic painting called Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze hanging in the New York Metropolitan Museum made me see Frank Stella's picture differently. The composition of Leutze's picture is designed to draw your eye to the image of George Washington standing defiantly in the rowing boat on Christmas Day 1776 at a pivotal moment in the American War of Independence. Now Stella's image was all about drawing the eye to the point of the cross at the centre of his composition. Both images are about a single moment in time and a single person that defined the making of USA. To many New York's skyscrapers are a symbol of USA's power and greatness (that's what 9/11 /2001 was about) so perhaps my first thought was also correct in a way (excuse the pun).

Of course if you are Dan Brown you will also see a pyramid symbolising Washington's Mason membership!

If you want to know more about the paintings go here for Stella and here for Leutze.
What has all this got to do with the theme of this blog? Well the next few days I am planning to embark on the complex and confusing subject that is the fear of crime. Perception is at the centre of it. This is a reminder that the same image or event can be perceived differently by different people. Even the the same person can have different views when different knowledge is brought to mind.

Also once you are able to read the language of minimalist symbolism it is a far more direct, specific and powerful means of communication than realistic imagery. The contrast I am making is between a Google hybrid maps and grid squares, for instance.

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