Landscape as experience: an integration of senses and soul

Cheshire, Barbara (2013) Landscape as experience: an integration of senses and soul. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This study examines if a cohesive physical representation from a structured, visual art system, is capable of developing a Christian experiential visual language that communicates a sensorial and transcendental experience of place. Commentary on the physical representation subsequently tests if a holistic integration of one human's sensorial response to place, and an internal experience of Christian spirituality in that place, can be communicated to the viewer through an art exhibition.

How experiential and spiritual perceptions of the senses to an event or place can be transmuted into visual art, as a vehicle of communication, is yet to be understood. In the literature of art, communicating the way in which physical sensorial perceptions cohere into a spiritual experiential response to place in north Queensland, does not appear to be researched and documented. Although varied environments in the north Queensland region have attracted spiritual painters since white settlement, these representations range from the literal to the symbolic to the abstract and are shown to be mediated through the ideologies, assumptions and belief systems of the artists. However, to understand how spiritual experiential art from site-specific places can be developed into a vehicle of communication calls for a different form of mediation. As a result, for the purpose of this research, a structured, experiential process was examined to interpret and render the holistic experience from spiritual and sensory perceptions.

A review of documented aspects of perception theory (e.g. phenomenology, spiritual perception, perception of place and elemental perception), a visual language synopsis, and a selected history of spiritual, Christian and Australian spiritual art all underpin the study. From this foundation, four north Queensland sites were monitored over several years. These sites were selected for detailed study from a preliminary group of eight, according to criteria established to screen out sites with a less evident quality of sensorial and spiritual experience. The examination and documentation of each site specific place evolved through the lived experiences of the artist-researcher.

The outcome of the systematic observations made was to produce a body of artwork forming an exhibition that became the physical intermediary between artist-researcher and viewer. The observations resulted in twelve initial trigger sketches; sixty analogue drawings of sensorial perception; sixty developed experimental studies based on the associated colour and technique of the conceptual perception data; twelve multi-layered compilation paintings; and twelve 2 metre by 1.2 metre engraved and painted alumin[i]um shields. The shields were presented on Perspex supports with each set of three signifying the abstract conceptions of all sensory and spiritual experiences at one place. The sketches, drawings, studies, paintings and shields were developed to convey the varying sense of the four places, each characterized as dominated by fire, earth, water or air at different times of day (morning, afternoon and evening) and as perceived by the artist-researcher's different senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch). The complete body of artwork formed the exhibition.

The exhibition, although filtered through the artist-researcher's aesthetic view of place, was a physical representation of a transcendental experience. A transcendental experience goes beyond time and the physical senses to an instantaneous awareness of the underlying unity of all things and of the timelessness of eternity. Yet this experience still happens within a body and in a particular time. The artist-researcher is a Christian whose spirituality is centered on God as loving creator of the environment. For her, the physical is infused with the divine, but in certain places this perception of the divine is more acute. The exhibition expressed her experiences of each environment mediated through the physical senses, and also through her awareness of the divine inherent in that environment, to produce works which describe her inner responses to that experience.

The viewer's comments that documented experiential responses to the exhibition, revealed how the sensorial and spiritual perceptions of the artist-researcher were communicated. A group of 229 comments were analyzed to test the effectiveness of the communication. This analysis found evidence to suggest that a spiritual essence of place could be communicated and experienced by viewers of the exhibition. Further, the documentation of the system in the form of this thesis shares the intricate process of one artist's human response to that experience, through the data and images of abstract compositions of harmony which reflect the spiritual accord experienced at place.

Item ID: 36288
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Christian; Christianity; creative arts; exhibition; experience; experiential; faith; feelings; God; human responses; landscape; perceptions; place; religion; religious; senses; sensorial; soul; spiritual; spirituality; transcendence; transcendental; visual arts
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2014 23:23
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1905 Visual Arts and Crafts > 190502 Fine Arts (incl Sculpture and Painting) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft) @ 100%
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