Robin Hawes


​​Art & Visual Perception: What value do contemporary theories of visual perception have for art practice? 

Supervisors: Prof. Robert Pepperell (DoS), Prof. Clive Cazeaux 
Research group/theme: CFAR

The research is undertaken using methods co​mprising: a contextual review of historical engagement with theories of visual perception by selected artists; a detailed analysis of contemporary theoretical literature including an examination of key debates in contemporary neuroaesthetics and related theories for art; and a period of practical investigation aiming to manifest and give form to specific visual phenomena identified as significant for the theories for art under consideration.

The ‘experiential’ visual phenomena – identified as ‘striking percepts of surfaces or contours that are not strictly given in the visual array’ or other associated visually ambiguous phenomena that are able to ‘catch us in the act of perception’ – are used to directly drive the practical investigations.

Critical evaluations of creative outcomes utilize both quantitative and qualitative methods. These methods are used to evaluate both the practice outcomes’ aesthetic merit, and the level to which the specific perceptual properties (asserted as theoretically relevant) have been successfully manifested. In this way the research aims to examine the relationship between application of theoretical knowledge and use of aesthetic intuition, in the context of the researcher’s creative practice.

Utilizing a previously untried and novel approach to juxtapose theory and practice, this doctoral investigation uncovers potential for developing more productive relationships between perceptual theory and arts practice. The research also concludes, however, that this potential is most likely to be realized via an extended engagement with non-representational, phenomenologically-based approaches to visual perception, rather than the representational, neural-based approaches that currently dominate neuroaesthetic research.​