Aesthetic judgment of orientation in modern art

School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK [Present address: School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK]
i-Perception 11/2012; 3(1):18-24. DOI: 10.1068/i0447aap
Source: PubMed


When creating an artwork, the artist makes a decision regarding the orientation at which the work is to be hung based on their aesthetic judgement and the message conveyed by the piece. Is the impact or aesthetic appeal of a work diminished when it is hung at an incorrect orientation? To investigate this question, Experiment 1 asked whether naïve observers can appreciate the correct orientation (as defined by the artist) of 40 modern artworks, some of which are entirely abstract. Eighteen participants were shown 40 paintings in a series of trials. Each trial presented all four cardinal orientations on a computer screen, and the participant was asked to select the orientation that was most attractive or meaningful. Results showed that the correct orientation was selected in 48% of trials on average, significantly above the 25% chance level, but well below perfect performance. A second experiment investigated the extent to which the 40 paintings contained recognisable content, which may have mediated orientation judgements. Recognition rates varied from 0% for seven of the paintings to 100% for five paintings. Orientation judgements in Experiment 1 correlated significantly with "meaningful" content judgements in Experiment 2: 42% of the variance in orientation judgements in Experiment 1 was shared with recognition of meaningful content in Experiment 2. For the seven paintings in which no meaningful content at all was detected, 41% of the variance in orientation judgements was shared with variance in a physical measure of image content, Fourier amplitude spectrum slope. For some paintings, orientation judgements were quite consistent, despite a lack of meaningful content. The origin of these orientation judgements remains to be identified.

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    • "A completely different methodological focus is taken by Tim Holmes and Johannes Zanker (2012): How can we measure preferences through eye-movements, and how can this technique be utilised? Among the topics with the widest range of articles related to them are the perception of space in paintings (Koenderink et al 2011; van Doorn et al 2011) and the perception of balance and orientation (Bertamini et al 2011; Gershoni and Hochstein 2011; Leyssen et al 2012; Mather 2012; McManus et al 2011), loosely related also to the phenomena of transparency (Sayim and Cavanagh 2011) and occlusion (Gillam 2011). Similarly, our authors approach visual illusions from different angles: illusions as characteristics of particular artworks (Daneyko et al 2011), eye-movement behaviour related to illusions (Hermens and Zanker 2012), and the aesthetics of visual illusions (Stevanov et al 2012). "
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