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#31345 - 07/30/09 08:09 PM Why are some things ugly and others beautiful?
coberst Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Why are some things ugly and others beautiful?

The distinguishing characteristic between organic and inorganic motif is movement. Movement can manifest itself simply through growth or volitional locomotion. The basic characteristic of inorganic crystallinity is not, however, entirely missing in organic bodies. Trees have their annual rings, leaves display systematic structure, these characteristics are however often veiled and hidden from the observers eye or partially obscured by principles such as the law of motion.

The basic characteristics of inorganic crystallinity are “(a) delimitation by regular surfaces conjoined at angles and (b) absolute stereometric and planimetric symmetry.” Art deals with inorganic substances; primitive wo/man unavoidably, and most likely unconsciously, asked the question how would nature do it?

What prevents the formal law of inorganic things, i.e. crystallization, from dominating all attempts to depict organic things? The laws of motion characteristic of inorganic things “compel the continuous rearrangement of molecules, which permits them to coalesce into a symmetrical structure only during pauses in the process of motion”.

In addition to motion a second characteristic of organic matter is curvature. Inorganic matter often appears in a shapeless state while organic matter generally appears in a state of curvature.

“Thus man found himself faced with the task of reproducing an organic natural being in dead matter. We must keep firmly in mind that this called not for imitation or lateral portrayal but for competition. If conceptual requirements demanded a depiction of a four-legged creature, the primitive artist was not compelled to portray a specific individual or, even less, an accidental attitude of that individual. He needed instead to depict a representative of the given species with no intent to individualize.”

In the attempt to adopt the principles of inorganic matter while simultaneously attempting to place the human species as being above that of nature required that the artist “depict a representative of a given species with no intent to individualize.” When portraying organic matter the artist must record it paused in mid motion.

Once it was deemed acceptable to depict organic matter in motion, stopped motion but nevertheless motion, “transitory and accidental qualities entered art”. This was a moment of great consequence for art; perhaps even more important than was the introduction of organic motifs.

An object in motion is an object that tends to lose its symmetry and proportionality, vital characteristics of crystalline structure. “Even this limited movement meant the loss of absolute symmetry; thus asymmetry came to accompany curvature.”

The artist must attempt to make this absence of absolute symmetry minimally apparent. Symmetry determines the relationship between the left and right sides of a figure. Proportion determines the relationship between the upper and lower parts of the figure.

When a thing of nature fails to conform to instinctive views of minimal acceptability of symmetry and/or proportionality “we describe it as ugly. A person’s face might exhibit the most punctilious symmetry, but if the forehead is too low, the cheeks too broad, or the nose too long, we call the whole thing unattractive without there being the slightest possibility of disagreement.”

Quotes from Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts by Alois Riegl

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#31347 - 07/30/09 09:26 PM Re: Why are some things ugly and others beautiful? [Re: coberst]
Revlgking Offline
Megastar

Registered: 01/17/07
Posts: 2311
Loc: markham (Thornhill), Ontario, ...
Coberst, then there are some things, including some people, which some of us find to be beautiful, or attractive, while others find the same to be ugly and unattractive. Beauty, sometimes, is in the eye--or is it the spirit?--of the beholder.

If the latter is so, it could be that there is such a thing as what I like to call the pneumatological factor.

Perhaps great artists--and I include inventors--are simply ordinary people with great spirits and gifted with the the imagination to love creatively. This power enables us to see more and more beauty, and good, in more and more things, in more and more people.

It is said that what we today call nutritious grains and other such plants came to be so when someone saw good in a weed.





Edited by Revlgking (07/30/09 09:53 PM)
Edit Reason: Improves any writing.
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31348 - 07/30/09 10:48 PM Re: Why are some things ugly and others beautiful? [Re: Revlgking]
Zephir Offline
Superstar

Registered: 07/01/08
Posts: 498
My remarks concerning symmetry and beauty theory in AWT...

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#31350 - 07/31/09 01:26 AM Re: Why are some things ugly and others beautiful? [Re: Zephir]
Ellis Offline
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Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 1490
Loc: Australia
The Rev beat me to it.

Thankfully whilst we can perhaps agree on some standard measurements, the perception of beauty relies solely on the individual reaction of the beholder. It is not a measurable theory as there is no science in it. The non-symmetry of a scene or face may appeal as beautiful to one person but not another. Thank goodness for this! We need to retain our independent judgement even at a time when advertisers and media planners think they know what appeals as a result of 'fake' science. We cannot measure beauty-- only averages.

This subject in my opinion is a topic way beyond the reach of a science forum-- and probably out of place on NQS. It is more at home in SF and Fantasy.


Edited by Ellis (07/31/09 01:29 AM)
Edit Reason: Too many ts and not enough 'm's in symmetry

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#31357 - 07/31/09 09:24 AM Re: Why are some things ugly and others beautiful? [Re: Revlgking]
coberst Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Rev

Before I began the effort to understand aesthetics and visual art history I thought much as you do. Now I have every reason to conclude that I was wrong.

When I study a domain of knowledge that is new to me I do not try to insert my common sense untutored intuition in place of what the expert is writing about that domain of knowledge. I will over ride the expert with my own judgment only after I have studied the matter for a good amount of time. One cannot learn anything if they trust their uneducated common sense before that of the expert.

I think that we would be wise if we were to place our common sense reactions on hold until we had developed a comprehension of the domain of knowledge in question. If we reject all new stuff that is contrary to our common sense we will never grow intellectually.


Edited by coberst (07/31/09 09:26 AM)

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#31358 - 07/31/09 09:28 AM Re: Why are some things ugly and others beautiful? [Re: Zephir]
coberst Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Originally Posted By: Zephir
My remarks concerning symmetry and beauty theory in AWT...


Very interesting statement and art.

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#31359 - 07/31/09 09:31 AM Re: Why are some things ugly and others beautiful? [Re: Ellis]
coberst Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Originally Posted By: Ellis
The Rev beat me to it.

Thankfully whilst we can perhaps agree on some standard measurements, the perception of beauty relies solely on the individual reaction of the beholder. It is not a measurable theory as there is no science in it. The non-symmetry of a scene or face may appeal as beautiful to one person but not another. Thank goodness for this! We need to retain our independent judgement even at a time when advertisers and media planners think they know what appeals as a result of 'fake' science. We cannot measure beauty-- only averages.

This subject in my opinion is a topic way beyond the reach of a science forum-- and probably out of place on NQS. It is more at home in SF and Fantasy.


Science is the systematic, disciplined, and empirical study of a domain of knowledge. So I must disagree with your view. However, you might be happy to know that almost everyone agrees with you and only a few agree with me.

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#31365 - 07/31/09 07:55 PM Re: Why are some things ugly and others beautiful? [Re: coberst]
Revlgking Offline
Megastar

Registered: 01/17/07
Posts: 2311
Loc: markham (Thornhill), Ontario, ...
IMO, it is always a beautiful thing when people are civilized enough to agree to disagree, agreeably. smile
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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