University of Tasmania
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Pareidolia : a visual inquiry into the perception of ambiguous images

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:33 authored by Hodgetts, RJ
This project explores the creative dynamics of visual perception through the phenomenon of pareidolia. Pareidolia manifests itself in recognisable shapes perceived in random stimuli and is a process which resists both adequate explanation and interpretation. The study explores some of the many cognitive and visual processes involved in the phenomenon, and interprets the findings in a materialistic form. Although pareidolia is often viewed as an illusion or misinterpretation of ambiguous stimuli, I believe it is an innate process which is allied to both imagination and human survival. This study explores the concept that it is a dual reality which brings into question established perceptions of reality. Utilising the medium of painting, I aim to create a body of work which reveals my interpretive response to random stimuli which contain pareidolian cues. The works and observations are a subjective analysis of ambiguous provocations which also bond cognitive and visual percepts to a material platform. The works reflect subconscious interactions with my perceptual set and reveal the vast array of responses which can emerge from seemingly featureless visual stimuli. From the figurative to the abstract, from the decorative to the simplistic, pareidolia evokes endless potential for artistic investigation. The project documents the progression of paintings, from initial interpretation, to the conceptual and visual closure of the percept. Three distinct phases emerge, figurative, ambiguous and abstract/pattern, all seemingly intertwined in degrees of shapeshifting. Within this context, the study examines artists who have utilised numerous aspects of this phenomenon in both subtle and overt guises. Leonardo da Vinci, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Alexander Cozens, Justinus Kerner and Max Ernst are representative of artists who have pioneered new developments in this genre. In an Australian context, the work of Russell Drysdale and Reinis Zusters exhibit unique aspects of pareidolia which respond to their vision of the Australian landscape.


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Copyright 2017 the author

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