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id ga9812
authors Riley, Howard
year 1998
title The Genetic Code of Drawing: A systemic – functional approach to the semiotics of visual language
source International Conference on Generative Art
summary The many varied drawing conventions, invented by human cultures world-wide to depict experience of their world on a two-dimensional surface, all derive from the two fundamental processes of selection and combination of marks and surfaces. Here is the DNA of drawing – a dialectically entwined pair from which spirals the luxuriant diversity of human visual representation. Recent work by visual semioticians Michael O’Toole, Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen has extended earlier insights of the linguist Michael Halliday to arrive at a powerful means of analysing painting, sculpture, architecture and graphics. Such analysis is known as systemic-functional semiotics because it identifies from within a visual grammar and vocabulary the systems of choices which enable the social functions of all human communication to be articulated. Those functions are: 1. to represent aspects of our physical and emotional experiences of the world. 2. to afford both artist and viewer the means for expressing or adopting personal attitudes and moods towards those experiences. An interpersonal function. Of course, a third function is required to make the previous two visible: 3. the functon of composition in material form. This kind of semiotics recognise that ideological constraints within a society can determine the choices of visual elements and the rules of their combination; it also recognises, dialectically, that the visual work thus produced may in turn affect the society’s ideological constructs. The paper breaks new ground by extending the concept of social semiotics into the field of Drawing. It goes on to explain an ecological approach to understanding visual perception, and attempts to synthesise aspects of this perception theory and semiotic theory. The resulting synthesis becomes a way of mapping the varieties of drawing which are generated from what may be termed the ?genetic code? of drawing. But this new theoretical model proposed here not only allows us to make contextual sense of existing drawing; it also provides a means of generating new ways of drawing.
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