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Slobodan Markovic; Perceptual, semantic and affective dimensions of the experience of representational and abstract paintings. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):1230. doi: 10.1167/10.7.1230.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
In this study we investigated the difference between representational and abstract paintings in judgments on three groups of subjective dimensions. All three groups of dimensions were specified in our previous factor analytic studies: (1) Perceptual dimensions Form, Color, Space, and Complexity, (2) Semantic dimensions Illusion-Construction of Reality (bipolar dimension), Expression, Ideology and Decoration, and (3) Affective dimensions Hedonic Tone, Arousal, Relaxation and Regularity. Each dimension was represented by three 7-step bipolar scales (perceptual and affective dimensions) or two 7-step unipolar scales (semantic dimensions). Two samples of paintings taken from our previous studies (18 representational and 18 abstract) were used as stimuli. Two groups of participants (N1= 30, N2 =30) judged either the representational or the abstract paintings. Participants completed three instruments, i.e. judged paintings on three sets of 7-step scales which corresponded to perceptual, semantic and affective dimensions. Results have shown that representational paintings were judged as significantly higher on the perceptual dimensions Form and Complexity, the semantic dimension Illusion of Reality (opposite pole of Construction of Reality), and the affective dimension Regularity. We had expected these differences because the representational paintings were made so to have relatively highly defined, precise, detailed and regular forms which could easily have been associated with objects in the physical world. Also, the abstract paintings are judged as higher on the perceptual dimension Color, semantic dimensions Expression and Construction of Reality (opposite pole of Illusion of Reality), and the affective dimension Arousal. All these differences reflect the basic characteristics of abstract art: abstract paintings are not created to represent anything from the physical reality, but to construct a new iconic world with intention to express the artist's emotions and to arouse the observer's mind. Color is one of the most effective artistic means which artists use to achieve these goals.
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