The single most powerful force in all compositions is facial recognition. You can have a 50 foot painting of a huge burning building beside a small person standing and their face will be of equal compositional weight to the larger shape because of its psychological value. I believe most great works of art including abstracts and landscape actually contain facial compositions within them-either consciously or subconsciously.
Facial recognition is one of the first things that a newborn brain does. It is a whole separate and special area of the brain that is responsible for this for our entire lives. It has long been an area fascination for me and I just listened to a program on the radio that has some interesting new developments in this field of cognitive science.
This study and found that people recognize a face through a series of movements to create an average composition of it in their mind and thus average out the face to define it’s attractiveness. This is explained further by the fact it takes many photographs to get a “good shot of a person”. But a video of the same sequence of photos will produce more positive reactions from the viewers.
Though I think this study is biased by conventional and mainstream ambitions to capturing a person’s “likeness” ( average portraits on Facebook, magazines, advertising bore the hell out of me and I hope you too) it does make sense to me because of the moving and choreography aspect of facial recognition.
I have had a hunch, for many years, that facial recognition or is tied into the physical way we see which is a rapidly scanning point over a field of vision and our mind fills in the rest. That is, I see the special importance, hardwired into us, of the movement of facial recognition as the impetus to written language and reading.
Yep-I can see curves and lines of many alphabets as reflecting the lines of a human face. I’m sure there are heat maps out there of people are looking at each other’s faces, perhaps in different circumstances, and this (so far imaginary) composition that has long intrigued me.
It is very important for all artist to consider the realities of how people physically see. To understand that people will attempt to associate objects into composition, I believe perhaps with some instinctual intent of arranging facial compositions. Some great art is great art precisely because it denies this from happening somehow.
I’m not a scientist but 300 years ago I could’ve been both an artist and scientist – this field of study would’ve been very cool. Now I just worry about finding a job with a decent hourly wage.
Anyways I hope it gets figured out someday – in the meantime it’s a great side area of study.