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Laura Hutchinson

Thesis: From Spaces to Places: Strategies of Embodiment in Modern Art
Supervisor: Paul Smith

Research Summary:
Pictures are often classified as a form of ‘visual’ art. We characterise our relation to them as one of ‘viewing’ or beholding’, we say we are ‘spectators’ and speak variously of their capacity to please or trick the eye. But while it is obvious that we decipher the content of a picture on the basis of optical information, are we therefore to assume that such objects solely give rise to visual experiences or that their meanings are exclusively sourced from the material of sight?
In my thesis I wish to propose that although pictures naturally address the eye, there has nevertheless been an attempt in modern art to challenge this inherent bias of the medium in order to show how sight is woven into a more complex web of perception. In particular, I wish to focus on the idea - long established in philosophy and currently gaining ground in science – that vision not only allows us to recognise objects but also contributes to and is patterned by our actions and our movements. By drawing on this idea, I shall therefore argue that the representational language of pictures, although best adapted to accommodate the identificatory function of vision has, in the hands of artists such as Cézanne, the Cubists, Barnett Newman and Rothko, been reconfigured to accommodate cues from this embodied dimension of sight. Thus, rather than reconstituting the visual world as a repository of knowledge, I shall claim that these artists invite us to attend to the body as a total power of sensing which is constantly in dialogue with its material surroundings.

I studied History of Art as an undergraduate at the University of Bristol from 2000 - 03 and completed a MA in Histories and Interpretations of Art at the same university in 2004 – 05. I began my research at Warwick in September 2006 thanks to funding from the AHRC.