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Light as a Visual Source Domain for the Divine in 17th Century Paintings / Janja Čulig.

By: Čulig, Janja.
Material type: ArticleArticlePublisher: 2017Description: str.Other title: Light as a Visual Source Domain for the Divine in 17th Century Paintings [Naslov na engleskom:].Subject(s): 6.03 | light, conceptual metaphor theory, conceptualization, socio-cultural context, collective memory | light, conceptual metaphor theory, conceptualization, socio-cultural context, collective memory In: 3rd International Symposium on Figurative Thought and Language. Skup: Osijek, Hrvatska, 26-28.4.2017Summary: This paper tries to explain the motivation for the creation of religious visual art, in which light plays the role of the signifier of divine presence. The goal is to determine the level of metaphoricity of the representations of light that often carries this meaning, and to establish a connection between its understanding and the basic conceptual metaphor KNOWING IS SEEING, along with the fact that these kinds of representations are often subconsciously interpreted as the presence of the divine. It is assumed that a visual representation of light would not be completely understandable if the viewer did not possess an inherent knowledge of the basic conceptual metaphors of light. The visual material selected for this research is comprised of samples of 17th century religious paintings of the Western artistic tradition, in which light serves as the primary carrier of divine meaning. The selected theoretical framework comprises works on Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980 ; Gibbs, 1994, 2008), understanding metaphor in culture (Kövecses, 2005 ; Sharifian, 2011), the motivation of metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980 ; Gibbs, 1994, 2008 ; Kövecses, 2005 ; Forceville and Urios-Aparisi, 2009 ; Sharifian, 2011 ; Raffaelli, 2012), as well as art-historical insights into the utilization of pictorial elements of light in the formal visual language of the Baroque (Haskell, 1963 ; Lambert, 2007 ; Toman, 2007). With the help of Sharifian's (2011) model of the schematic conceptualization of culturally-conditioned visual forms, we will try to explain the method of the conceptualization of light which serves as the source domain for the divine in the chosen examples of paintings, but also the extent to which every kind of human communication, regardless of form, relies on cognitive mechanisms of conceptualization imbedded in the individual's socio-cultural context. As members of the same socio-cultural context, and successors of the cultural memory that is its bequest, we possess and inherent ability to decipher visual messages written in the pictorial language that is conventionalized within this social context. The conceptual value of visual forms is equal to that of language, which is why we are able to understand the semantic totality of the concept of light through pictures, because it is construed on the basis of the same cognitive mechanisms of conceptualization as language. Therefore, light as expressed in a visual message of religious character from the Baroque period is understandable to a member of this socio-cultural context as the presence of the divine thanks to not only the basic cognitive mechanism of conceptualization, but also to the collective cultural memory that this member of society has inherited by growing up in their own cultural context, and which is conventionalized by insights about light as the carrier of knowledge, and of the divine as its source. The significance of this kind of research lies in the prospects of interdisciplinary approaches to concepts in general. This combination of scientific perspectives enables us to approach the concept of light from a wider view, which leads to a deeper understanding of the concept, its use in human communication, and its significance for the structuring of the knowledge of the world by an individual, but also by the wider socio- cultural collective to which they belong.
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This paper tries to explain the motivation for the creation of religious visual art, in which light plays the role of the signifier of divine presence. The goal is to determine the level of metaphoricity of the representations of light that often carries this meaning, and to establish a connection between its understanding and the basic conceptual metaphor KNOWING IS SEEING, along with the fact that these kinds of representations are often subconsciously interpreted as the presence of the divine. It is assumed that a visual representation of light would not be completely understandable if the viewer did not possess an inherent knowledge of the basic conceptual metaphors of light. The visual material selected for this research is comprised of samples of 17th century religious paintings of the Western artistic tradition, in which light serves as the primary carrier of divine meaning. The selected theoretical framework comprises works on Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980 ; Gibbs, 1994, 2008), understanding metaphor in culture (Kövecses, 2005 ; Sharifian, 2011), the motivation of metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980 ; Gibbs, 1994, 2008 ; Kövecses, 2005 ; Forceville and Urios-Aparisi, 2009 ; Sharifian, 2011 ; Raffaelli, 2012), as well as art-historical insights into the utilization of pictorial elements of light in the formal visual language of the Baroque (Haskell, 1963 ; Lambert, 2007 ; Toman, 2007). With the help of Sharifian's (2011) model of the schematic conceptualization of culturally-conditioned visual forms, we will try to explain the method of the conceptualization of light which serves as the source domain for the divine in the chosen examples of paintings, but also the extent to which every kind of human communication, regardless of form, relies on cognitive mechanisms of conceptualization imbedded in the individual's socio-cultural context. As members of the same socio-cultural context, and successors of the cultural memory that is its bequest, we possess and inherent ability to decipher visual messages written in the pictorial language that is conventionalized within this social context. The conceptual value of visual forms is equal to that of language, which is why we are able to understand the semantic totality of the concept of light through pictures, because it is construed on the basis of the same cognitive mechanisms of conceptualization as language. Therefore, light as expressed in a visual message of religious character from the Baroque period is understandable to a member of this socio-cultural context as the presence of the divine thanks to not only the basic cognitive mechanism of conceptualization, but also to the collective cultural memory that this member of society has inherited by growing up in their own cultural context, and which is conventionalized by insights about light as the carrier of knowledge, and of the divine as its source. The significance of this kind of research lies in the prospects of interdisciplinary approaches to concepts in general. This combination of scientific perspectives enables us to approach the concept of light from a wider view, which leads to a deeper understanding of the concept, its use in human communication, and its significance for the structuring of the knowledge of the world by an individual, but also by the wider socio- cultural collective to which they belong.

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