Artists and designers are constantly extracting ideas from the world they live in. In order to glean inspiration from the things they observe, they must look closely and think critically about these things. Analysation allows artists to develop an in-depth understanding of visual texts, and use this understanding to influence their own art and design practises. In order to properly analyse, one must take into account the technique of contextualising and the matter of constant worldly change.
One of the most crucial factors in determining the purpose of a visual text is the context belonging to it. The context of a visual text is the most important factor in determining the purpose of said text. Context forms the background of every existing artefact. It is the context – why an artefact was created, and the state of the world when it was created – which allows us to connect with what we see on more than a visual level (Clarke, 25). Therefore, it is context which imbues meaning into every visual text, and makes it worth viewing. However, context is not always readily presented to the audience of a text. It may take some digging to unearth the creator’s intent or the conditions surrounding the creation of an artefact. This is where close examination and critical thinking are advantageous. These allow us to contextualise; to place the subject in its natural environment (Clarke, 25). Pinpointing the most significant aspects of a visual text allows us to make links to other events or artefacts with similar features, therefore establishing that the various texts were probably created at approximately the same time and in the same place, or were influenced by the global issues of the time/place (Clarke, 25. Ruszkiewicz et al., 34).
Identifying the context of an artefact is an adequate solution to the ‘problem’ of constant change. Nicholas Mirzoeff addresses this in his book How to See the World. He states that “photographs and videos [or indeed, any visual texts] are our way of trying to see the world… we feel compelled to make images… and share them with others as a key part of our effort to understand the changing world around us” (Mirzoeff 6) and that “there is a new world-view being produced” (Mirzoeff 12) due to “vastly expanded quantities of imagery, implying many different points of view” (Mirzoeff 13). This means that because of the increasing number of visual texts being made available for us to view and be inspired by, the contexts in which these texts are created and circulated is being steadily replaced with newer, more relevant contexts that relate to more recently released visual texts.
One such example is Blue Marble (below). Once a life-changing image that revolutionised the way we saw ourselves on the spectrum of universal significance (Mirzoeff 4), Blue Marble has now been replaced with more recent images of the earth, and so its context has changed. It has transitioned from the one and only view we had of our home planet, into yet another rendering of something we’ve seen numerous times (Mirzoeff 8,9).
Context is always changing, becoming either updated or outdated (Ruszkiewicz et al. 34). This makes visual analysation and critical thinking all the more important, as we need it more now than ever to determine the most relevant context belonging to an artefact.
If artists did not understand the the work of other artists, and the world around them, they would cease to create art with meaning. Therefore, the use of close examination and critical thinking to determine the meaning of a text remains a relevant skill that every artist and designer should utilise. After all, one’s own art and design practise is determined by how well one understands the art and design practises of others.