The problem presented in this thesis concerns the prevailing neglect by critics and art historians of analysis of abstract elements in the analysis of representational art, and the search for a common analytical method applicable to all art: representational, pure abstract art, architecture and design. I show that by applying the theory of the Bauhaus art teacher, Johannes Itten, it becomes possible to explore all visual expressions using the same criteria.
The psychological reaction stimulated in the mind by contrasting effects is of prime importance. In Itten's theory, psychological reactions are associated with the aesthetic experience triggered by non-verbal visual stimuli. A non-verbal stimulus is the perceived contrast between the abstract form elements, between lines, between textures and colors. Abstract elements are therefore the common denominator of representational art, pure abstract art and design.
It is possible that Itten's theory about contrasts between abstract form elements represents a philosophical principle of fine art, which is constant under all visual experiences. I name this the perception-based constant that is related to the brain processing of nonverbal stimuli.
In order to argue that the interplay of contrasting abstract elements and colors constitutes the common denominator between representational, pure abstract art, architecture and design, it is necessary to distinguish the two ways of perceiving art. Itten s theory covers perception through two ways of seeing: 1) the non-verbal stimuli generated by abstract elements and colors. 2) the verbal stimuli by the literary content in figurative art. The subtle line of division between these two different kinds of perception is consistent with the late scientific research finding that humans react to sense impressions with two different but compatible functions of the brain.
That literary themes in fine art are associated with aesthetic experience on equal terms with visual impressions seems to be a problem. The view is presented that representational themes inevitably evokes sentimental reactions by its content. Formal analysis of representational art entails a momentary disregard of the intellectual theme. When viewing a representational work of art one can better understand the artist's abstract arrangement while setting aside the content. When objects within a composition are studied in terms of an interplay of contrasting form elements and colors, one can better understand how abstraction gives the viewer an opportunity to react to the formal non-verbal stimuli that is a one certain cause of aesthetic experience.
The purpose of this paper is to integrate the art theory of Itten with the traditional art theories and methods of formal analysis. Itten s theory emphasizes the effects of juxtaposed contrasting abstract form elements and colors as they may exist in any representational work, pure abstract painting, design and architecture. What the designer, artist and architect have in common is to work with abstract form and color without considering content. In order to apply an integrated approach to analysis of art, I propose that the analyst should meet with both the artists and the designers at the junction of their common creative discourse.