This term we are going to be focusing on Creating Meaning.
You will learn about the ways in which we create meaning from experience in everyday life and in the Artworld. You will discover how the senses, memory and curiosity all play a part in the interpretive process.

Our first TEST CASE STUDY is How is meaning created?

You should be able to:
apply your understanding of practice in Art Criticism and Art History.
apply your understanding of the relationships among the Artist, Artworld, World and Audience.
demonstrate an understanding of how the Frames provide different orientations for critical investigations of Artwoks and Artmaking, and apply these to your won Artmaking.
construct a body of significant Art Histories, Critical Narratives and other documentary accounts of how representations in the visual arts are constructed.

Part One
How is meaning created? A Case Study
The processes of creating meaning
Comparison with previous experience
Incorporation of new or alternative knowledges
Incorporating the Artist's opinions of their work into our interpretation
Synthesising your collection of ideas into a coherent interpretation
Review of key concepts in creating meaning

HSC Visual Arts teachers you to develop an informed point-of-view about the Artworld.

You will interpret an Artwork by using:
your own perceptions
comparison with your own previous experiences
the incorporation of new or alternative knowledge
develop further meanings for an Artwork by incorporating the views of other Audience members
synthesise a variety of ideas about an artwork into a coherent interpretation.

The process of creating meaning
Deciding what art is, what it means and how it is valued is a complex business. The view of art theory dominant in Modernism (c. 1860-c. 1970) held that an artwork had a universally accepted meaning, intrinsic to (being part of) the work. In more recent times, however, the views of art theorists have shifted to examine how meanings of Artworks are unstable and change, according to the worldviews of Audiences and the many factors which come into play during the dynamic, interactive process of interpretation. This approach has led to the development of the Frames in NSW Visual Arts, which are designed to assist you navigate the many different ways of generating meanings for Artworks.

In order to accommodate the shift which can occur in ideas about artworks, let's first consider how we go about the process of creating meaning.

Coming to terms with multiple points of view

Have you ever experienced a different opinion about something from someone else?
You are quite sure that your view of the situation is correct. They are equally adamant that their opinion is the true one. Neither of you can see the other's stand on the issue. Such situations demonstrate how difficult it can be sometimes to understand another's point-of-view and to accommodate their opinions. Different interpretations of an experience can create conflicting meanings.

In the study of art, varying worldviews also affect interpretations of Artworks. Being aware of this opens up possibilities for acknowledging and incorporating differing knowledges and multiple meanings in our understanding of Artworks.

Let's look at a situation which a group of people differ in their understanding of an experience and, therefore, create different meanings for it. This will provide some clues about how we create meaning, which apply to our interpretations of Artworks.

Read the following poem, The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, by John Godfrey Saxe, which is based on a traditional Hindu fable. It illustrates three important aspects of how we make meaning of the world which can be applied to the process of interpretation in Art Criticism.

The meaning made of the elephant by the men in this poem is influenced by their:
perceptions (knowledges gained through the senses) of the encounters with the elephant.
comparisons (analyses of similarities) of the event with their previous experiences of the world
inability to incorporate alternative knowledges (other ways of understanding) into their frames-of-reference


The blind men from Indostan perceive the elephant through their understandings of touch. They rely on a limited amount of information about the animal to make n interpretation. By not exploring the beast beyond his first impressions, each of the elephant-investigators represents the animal form a very limited perspective to his companions.

Likewise, as art-investigators, we don't always take time to examine all of a work's qualities, so from limited understandings about its possible meanings.

In studying Artworks we often use photographic reproductions. This is quite different from being present with the real work. Reproductions of Artworks cannot present aspects beyond the static and visual. Also, they often
de-contextualise Artworks, so that their relationships to people and places are not immediately evident. This, however, does not prevent us from carrying out investigations.

Jeff Koons' Puppy at MCA Circular Quay



Jeff Koons (b.1955, American), Puppy, 2 January- 17 March 1992, stainless steel, internal irrigation system, earth geotextile fabric and 60,000 flowering plants, 12.4m x 8.3 m x 9.1 m, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

On your page write under the heading PERCEPTION (Jeff Koons' Puppy)

Write down what you see.