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 more exposure we get the more open minded we become, it’s a learning process through experience and personal connections, Ruszkiewicz states we each find different things in visual text and react to them differently. Both looking and thinking critically it requires active consideration and engagement with the visual text in order to grip full comprehension. The critical thinking process according to Wallace, Andrew, Tony Schirato, and Phillipa Bright, “Critical thinking” is about identifying, analysing, reasoning with and evaluating the visual text.
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. Creative thinking is not only restricted to the art academic fields, as mentioned by Wallace, Andrew, Tony Schirato, and Phillipa Bright. “Critical thinking”, Chinese philosopher, Sun Tzu’s book “The Art of War” presented just how important creative thinking is to the gain of success.
Visual texts often cannot be entirely understood without a sound understanding of the context, a visual text reflects the current surroundings it’s in, whether it be social, political or environmental. For example, Shephard’s “Romance” Lightbox Series in Courtenay Place Park 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. His work provides an insight events that are current to when “Romance” was created and exhibited. As mentioned by Ruszkiewicz visual texts can incomprehensible without the background information. 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”.
image here – “Romance” by Richard Shephard
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.