Landscape perceptions and experiences

The aims of this blog is
1) to gather material which helps us to view 'Landscape' from many different perspectives (Science, Phenomenology, Aesthetics, Ethics etc)
2) and secondly to record 'Landscape experiences' from our workshops (Reports) and my own experiences (Diary).
For our workshops see our website

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Action in Perception (by Alva Noe) and the World in a Glance (by Edward Casey)

Recently I came to know the works of Alva Noe  and his colleagues and the work of Edward Casey
So I ordered Action in Perception and The World in a Glance .
The first work is a refutation of the classical way of seeing things; image in retina, then signals to the brain and then hoopla we see things.
Alva Noe refutes this by saying  and this is also what we experience, we see the image or object (what is it? That's another question ) where it is and not in our head.
This work is the fruit of substantial work with other colleagues and empirical research. To read the book obviously needs hard work and is fairly demanding. Also it shows that the whole affair about how we see (and learn to see!) is complicated. Luckily he writes in a lively way, what makes it lighter.

In contrast The World at a Glance  Edward Casey writes in a more accessible way, less intellectual certainly, and how we experience it.
The subject is, to put it very simply, to give attention to the fact that when we e.g. drive through a country side and glance around, without giving special attention to anything, we instantly know and experience a landscape in all its facets; forms (mountains, hills, plains) , structures (field forms or houses etc.), season etc. without thinking about it. Or we see a certain social situation, when we enter a house, by just glancing around. So in a certain way we just skim with our eyes, the coloured surfaces of things. This is also a light activity and we nearly do it all the time, but totally ignored in serious studies or science. No reference of Casey's work have I found in Alva Noe's work so far.
The book is a real pleasure to read and it is about everyday experiences, but Edward Casey is such a good observer that he brings them to light and into consciousness.  Thank you


Last week I started drawing practices, and I thought to keep a diary with some notes of my experiences
Every day I placed an object, from simple to more complicated, but in the expectation that is not too difficult; this was not always successful!
The first was a bunch of daffodils in a glass square pot. I concentrated on the outline of the objects, fully aware that in fact you only see a boundary with on one side a shade of yellow, in case of the flowers, or green, in case of leaves, and the other side whatever the background was.
I became soon aware off is that your vision, in the form of image, does not coincide with your experience of a three dimensional object. It is fairly easy to draw a flower what is facing you, apart from the centre which comes towards you! But more difficult is the drawing of a flower facing to the right or left. How does one know what is further away or nearer? I come back to this question later.
Even more difficult is to draw a flower which is half facing you.

In the whole exercise I learned that to draw properly, or let me say it more clearly, to see how the object presents itself to sight only, it to ignore the 3 -dimensions and see it as an flat image.

What you can draw or better perhaps with colour (paint) is to depict the various shades of colour, which at the same time shows the shadows or reflections. This makes one realise that how an object shows itself depends very much on external circumstances (light, shadows). 
An interesting fact was that the inner petals are darker yellow, nearly orange, (So in the drawing I make them darker) but when the flower is facing you, it is light at the far end, as it is transparent. By the way the larger petals are bright yellow, also because they are partly transparent.

So how does one know or better said, experience from a 2-dimensional drawing a 3-dimensional ??? what shall we call it? Experience? Is it imagination? Or it is the way we see things in it strict and narrow sense of the word? That was the way people spoke when they saw for the first timBrunelleschi's painting wherein  he used his perspective technology.

Next day I thought I draw something more simple, but alas, that was not to be!
Again it is difficult to differentiate between what you experience (round forms)  and draw them as ellipses! Top right is nicely done, but the rest no good. The dark bit at the bottom is the shadow, but also that is not very successful. The coffee pot was ceramic and glazed. And so one could see a lot of reflections, and the whitish square is actually the mirror image of my drawing paper. All the shining edges and other reflections I left out. But it again show that any object shows how it is related to its environment and we can see it even in the narrow sense of the word.

First I did a copper dish with lid and again troubles with circles and ellipses. And again all kind of reflections (shining copper) but manage to depict shades.
Then the apple. The apple had so many fine graded colours on the skin, that one cannot do justice to it. However the general patterns were vertical, but they were accentuated by ridges, so one one side they were more light then other; that is more facing the light then the other side.

This was a fossil of a piece of wood and the side facing you, very smooth and polished.
The dark bits are dark brown and mainly the inside and light bits the outside of the fossil.
One could see reflections in the smooth surface, but did not attend to them.

Another bunch of flowers, this time wild hyacinths, also in a glass pot. Here again the main problem was to depict flowers facing side ways. This time aware of the different stages of the flower. Buds bursting to go open, simple single flowers and on the right a whole bunch totally open.
An interesting part of the exercise was that once one depicts the stems in the vase, the border of the water level becomes visible. Nearer stems are continuous, but further back they are discontinuous! or better said they continue, but more to the left.