In my last post, I ranted a bit about how artists are expected to be “deep”, while musicians are allowed to just play. Zak commented that he thought this could be because of a key difference between visual art and music:
“…music takes place over time where visual art is static. That makes it much easier for, say, two people to look at the same photo at the same time and discuss it ad nauseum, taking it in all at once.”
In other words, the visual arts expect “deepness” because deepness is possible. Unlike music, you can simultaneously observe and comment on a work of art. Interesting idea.
This got me thinking more about the differences between visual art and music. Not only are they different in form, the senses that process art and music function very differently. By nature, our vision is easily distracted. It is a multi-threaded process, constantly moving, simultaneously taking in new data. When you look at a piece of art, it’s hard to keep your eye from wandering off. One way to fix your sight is to analyze it, discuss it. This is different from our aural senses, which are more of a singular process. They quickly get absorbed by the loudest, most full sound nearby. Listening to music, it takes a lot to distract you away from it, making it harder to talk about.
It is interesting how these characteristics of our senses influence the way an artist creates their art to capture the attention of the viewer. In the visual arts, we use composition, line, contrast, and other “shiny objects” to catch the eye as it wanders, and keep it focused on our art. Strategic placement of areas of focus can encourage the eye to wander about the artwork. Some of us paint huge canvases that give the eye plenty room to move, while others make tiny pieces that force the eye to focus in close, minimizing distractions. In a sense, all art is an attempt to trick the eye, to make it change its normally fickle nature and behave a little more like our ears: absorbed and focused.