Material perception — the visual perception of stuff — is an emerging field in vision research. We recognize materials from shape, color and texture features. This paper is a selective review and discussion of how artists have been using shape features to evoke vivid impressions of specific materials and material properties. A number of examples are presented in which visual artists render materials or their transformations, such as soft human skin, runny or viscous fluids, or wrinkled cloth. They achieve this by expressing the telltale shape features of these materials and transformations, often by carving them from a single block of marble or wood. Vision research has just begun to investigate these very shape features, making material perception a prime example of how art can inform science.
Sergio Roncato and Fabio Roncato
Visual artists can be considered the precursors of students of the visual system. Paintings and graphic arts have been attentively examined by vision scientists, while sculpture has been considered less. Here we intend to fill this gap by illustrating how artists faced what seems an impossible challenge: to carve a stone so that it looks like a transparent veil. The success of the artists in reproducing the veil can be assessed by exploring the hundreds of Internet pages dedicated to ‘veiled statuary’. We chose some of the most admired statues and tried to ‘glean’ the sculptor’s technique. Two of these artworks are the work of Greek artists, the other statues were carved by baroque and modern sculptors. We did not find a single technique but, rather, a diversity of solutions, as is to be expected in an exploration in which opposites must be reconciled: an observer has to catch the presence of something elastic, thin, and transparent in a surface made of a rigid and opaque material. We checked the ability of the sculptor to render such properties by submitting samples of veiled statues to some observers who were asked to judge the strength of the veiling effect, and to categorize the perceived materials and features, such as transparency and thinness. The results confirm the artists’ knowledge of visual cues that are able to convey a complex set of information and meanings: material categorization, materials properties, perceptual decomposition of surfaces, completion of perceptual fragments into unitary percepts.
In the visual arts, one often composes a spatially organised array of elements. These elements are often roughly uniform patches (‘macchie’) and edges. These are mutually complementary and often imply each other. ‘Edges’ may either divide or unite macchie, whereas adjacent macchie may imply an edge. Edges may be common boundaries as in cloisonnism, or be one-sided as in outline. Composition often requires that edges be ‘lost’, either to avoid the dreaded silhouette effect, or to merge macchie that are semantically distinct, like figure and ground. This leads to planned ‘passages’ or various modulations of edge quality, the ‘lost & found’ quality being most common. I relate such conventional artistic devices to the concept of ‘edge’ in image processing and human vision.
Nicolas Bisson and Simon Grondin
Despite its abundant literature, the timing research field does not offer any comparison of prospective and retrospective time estimates emerging from a within-subjects design. Likewise, the relationships between these estimates and individual factors, within such a design, have never been investigated. The present study addresses these issues. Ninety-two participants retrospectively and prospectively estimated the duration of an Internet surfing task and completed several questionnaires (e.g., personality). Results showed that (a) prospective time estimates were longer than retrospective ones for only 58% of the participants and (b) the relationships between individual factors and time estimates differed as a function of the fact that a participant had or not a longer prospective time estimate. The discussion explains the methodological, theoretical and practical impacts emerging from this new method for studying the relationships between individual factors and time estimates in daily life-like situations.
Tianna Loose, Didier Acier and Ghassan El-Baalbaki
We aimed to investigate (1) bivariate associations between alcohol use, time perspective, temporal competency, and personality traits; (2) the extent to which different temporal scales predicted alcohol use in order to select constructs most related to alcohol use; and (3) the most related temporalities as mediators between personality traits and alcohol use. French (n = 389) and Canadian (n = 478) college students responded to questionnaires online. Analyses included (1) correlations between measures; (2) three multiple regressions in which different sets of temporalities (ZTPI, TCT-5D, a combination of scales) predicted alcohol use; (2) five multiple parallel mediator models, in which one big-5 trait was entered as a distal factor leading to alchol use through the parallel mediators of temporalities. Most temporal dimensions were correlated with alcohol use and a unique set of personality traits. The combination of temporal scales (past negative, present hedonist, anticipation, temporal rupture) predicted alcohol use better than any other instrument. All personality traits explained alcohol use through different sets of temporalities. Cases of indirect only and competitive mediation were observed. Personality traits explained alcohol consumption through the multiple parallel mediators of temporalities. In some cases (neuroticism, openness and agreeableness) temporalities had to be taken into account in order to observe an effect of personality on alcohol use which helps explain inconsistencies in the literature. Future work may benefit from taking into account combinations of temporal dimensions in order to best explain (drinking) behaviors, including but not limited to the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory.
This illustrated essay highlights some conceptual problems that arise when we consider the nature of visual perception and its relationship to art. Science proceeds on the assumption that natural phenomena operate rationally and can be explained rationally. Yet the study of art shows that many ordinary acts of perception, such as looking at a picture, can be paradoxical, logically contradictory and self-referential. I conclude that we must confront these problems if we are to reconcile the scientific approach to explaining visual perception with artistic and philosophical discoveries.
Ian Verstegen, Tamara Prest and Laura Messina Argenton
This qualitative report concerns a larger study on pictorial continuous narrative devised by Alberto Argenton and developed by the authors in his memory, reporting only a synthesis of the main findings obtained through the study of a corpus of 100 artworks on the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. The study was aimed at identifying the perceptual–representational strategies used by artists to visually tell this story in the continuous narrative mode. The pilot study, accomplished by three independent judges (the authors) on the corpus of artworks, adopting phenomenological observation, highlights four strategies used by artists to distinguish and link the episodes or events constituting the story: segmentation of episodes or events, time/space separating cues, vectors of direction and repetition of principal figures. A description of the above categories accompanied by some illustrative examples is given.
In The Centrifugal Soul, Mat Collishaw utilises the principles of the zoetrope to create a sculpture where birds and plants appear as ghostly forms suspended outside of the sculpture’s tangible base. The technique of the zoetrope allows for the temporal aspects of a 3D-printed topology to transform perceptions of movement from space to space and from form to form as well as to choreograph an overall composition of space and the dance of display. The intersection of the material arts with optical and natural sciences encourages a sophisticated choreography of viewer perceptions that calls not only on what viewers can see but also what they cannot. My interest is to draw upon some of the conceptual and aesthetic possibilities implied by such choreographic promise in the act of perceiving sculpture. The Centrifugal Soul demonstrates a concern with surface as a site of emergence, or potentially sculpture as a site of emergence for new intensities, expanding and thickening the limits of what we can understand as surface or substance. The behaviour of these surfaces in deformation highlights imaginative possibilities for sculpture to unpack the ephemeral and fluid, including where sculpture might become a technological mediation of vision. I conclude that Collishaw choreographs the intervallic nature of image processes and technologies, and the concepts of motion, time, light and darkness potentially to shift our understanding of the identity of sculpture from an ontological foundation to an epistemological one.