Two scientific disciplines, image research and psychology research, have long been intertwined. As our ideas about the processes of perception and cognition have improved, we have changed our views of how visual communication takes place. At the same time, many paintings and sketches, from the early experiments with perspective and the Gestaltists’ discovery of grouping laws, to the incoherent drawings of Escher and Albers, had a significant impact on the study of visual perception.
This essay will attempt to apply modern perception theory to some of the problems that arise in the context of image theory. But first, let’s look at Leonardo da Vinci’s early experiments in pictorial representation and how the two classical schools of perception theory approached the problems raised by these experiments. Leonardo suggests the following method of creating paintings: place the glass in front of you, focus on the object, and trace the outline of the tree on the glass. <...> Repeat the same when representing <...> trees located at a greater distance. Save these images on glass, they will become your assistants and mentors in your work.
One of the reasons why Leonardo’s window becomes an image is that a window pane, if perfectly prepared, provides the eye with almost the same distribution of light as the landscape itself, and it is only through light It comes to our eyes that we become aware of the surfaces and distances in the environment. Consequently, this is one of the ways of creating images, if the image is understood as a flat object with a pigmented surface, the reflectivity of which varies from place to place and which can serve as a substitute or analogue of the spatial arrangement of a group. of completely different objects.
In fact, if you look at one of Leonardo’s windows from the point where the artist was standing when he painted the landscape, it replaces the landscape simply because it affects the eye of the beholder in the same way as the landscape itself. In such images, we cannot always see the three-dimensional depth, but, on the other hand, we do not always adequately perceive the real three-dimensional view if we look at it without changing the position of the head, from a fixed point in space. However, when studying images created using this method (or a functionally similar but more complex method), which makes it possible to convincingly convey depth, Leonardo took into account almost all the signs of depth and distance that an artist can use. In other words, he observed the characteristics of a window to which a perspective drawing is applied that apparently arise in connection with a difference in distance, characteristics that should occur whenever a projection is transferred from a three-dimensional world to another. a two-dimensional surface.
The implications of this “experience” and the implications of it have been the subject of much discussion (Gibson, 1954; Gombrich, 1972; Goodman, 1968; and others). It seems to me that the polar positions of the participants in the discussion, as well as the very fact of their appearance, derive from a wrong attitude. That is, from the assumption, generally implicit and unconscious, that only one area of perception is involved in the processing of visual information and that a set of rules is capable of explaining the relationship between the stimulus that affects the eye and our perception. of the landscape or any type.
The debate has largely centered around one of the hallmarks of depth: perspective; to a large extent, they were based on the following thesis: an image on a plane generates in the eye the same distribution of lights and shadows as the real sight, only in the case that the observer looks at the image from the same point and from the same distance as the artist at the time the image was created.