Undergoing critical thinking and looking closely at visual texts is important to art and design practices as they allow us to look beneath just the surface meaning to achieve a greater understanding of the art. Critical thinking also facilitates rational decision-making which is crucial when we are confronted with visual texts that are difficult to interpret.
As aspiring artists and designers, it’s fair to say critical thinking and looking closely is a key part of the enhancement of our visual skill set. The closer we look, the more details we notice, by doing this we maximize our exposure to images and ideas, which we can later draw from for inspiration or even support when interpreting other artworks. The critical thinking process is about identifying, analysing, then reasoning and evaluating the visual text (Wallace, Andrew, Tony Schirato, and Phillipa Bright. “Critical thinking”).
Creative thinking is an often misunderstood category of critical thinking as it doesn’t necessarily have to follow a process, it encourages the exploration of the more imaginative options, “to think out of the box”, it stimulates problem-solving and unique interpretations in a less generic and routine way.
Visual texts often cannot be entirely understood without a sound understanding of the context, whether you notice it or not, the visual text is a reflection of the current context it’s in, whether it be social, political or environmental. Shephard’s “Romance” Lightbox Series was made to reflect our “pixel based” lives, the images exhibited are snippets of live broadcast television. The snippets do not only capture the digital era we are in but also, the scenes on the T.V it provides an insight into the current events that are happening when “Romance” was created and exhibited, it’s a sobering reflection on our current society. (Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright). Shephard’s “Romance” without knowing the backstory of these images would have been a seemingly impossible task to pinpoint the true underlying message and purpose of it. As context reflects current society, it changes with the trends and ideals, visual texts essentially capture a snapshot of that moment in time, Mirzoeff describes visual texts (images) as “the attempt to try capture change itself”.
For both students and teachers in art and design practices, critical thinking and close looking is an important utensil to have as it helps penetrate the overwhelming amount of visual text that is out there. Critical thinking aids in the identification, and analysis of visual text as well as, the full acknowledgement of the role context plays.