Art and Representation: Contributions to Contemporary Aesthetics

By Ananta Ch. Sukla | Go to book overview
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Some Current Philosophical Theories of Pictorial Representation


I wish to retraverse the familiar ground of E. H. Gombrich’s illusion, delusion, or, as I prefer to call it, “realist” theory of pictorial representation and the theories it gives rise to by way of rebuttal. In particular, I wish to examine the aspect theory of representation, put forward my projection theory and conclude by contrasting the latter with another powerful projection theory of pictorial representation, that of Nicholas Wolterstorff in his Works and Worlds of Art (1980). This outstanding work, in its philosophical and logical rigor, its innovative power and imaginative sweep, promises to do for philosophical aesthetics in the 1980s what Gombrich’s Art and Illusion (1960) did for everyone concerned with aesthetics and in our tradition for the 1960s and 1970s. Please note, by the way, that Gombrich’s theory also incorporated projection.

Central to, and implicit in, my concerns is a distinction, not to be argued for and elaborated here, except en passant with a reference to Kant at the end, that, I think, needs to be made between ordinary pictorial representation, where there is no claim to aesthetic merit or properties, on the one hand and aesthetic representation on the other. This distinction appears to have been overlooked by all theorists of pictorial representation with the notable exceptions of Kant and, in our own day, Harold Osborne. 1

What is it for that particular canvas covered in configurations of oil paint by Constable, say, to be a pictorial representation of Wivenhoe Park? What is it more modestly for that configuration of colored lines and circles to represent the routes and stations of the London Underground? And even more modestly, what is it for that configuration of dots to represent, say, fields of magnetic force or even a triangle? Let us start with three possible accounts of pictorial representa-


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