Continuing our introduction to Syllabus concepts:
The Frames
There are four Frames:
1. Subjective
2. Structural
3. Postmodern
4. Cultural
The Frames give us 4 different ways to think, write and talk about art. Different people
see things with different viewpoints, as we know… what factors could contribute to
different viewpoints (on anything, not just art)?
Last session we looked at the Conceptual Framework. It was a diagram that
told us stuff that we kind of already knew. In the artworld, just like the
soccerworld or any other world, there are relationships; different roles that
people take on. People, institutions, objects act as agents. That is, they
influence the artworld in different ways.
The Conceptual Framework:
The 4 agencies of the
Like soccer, art is a human activity. As humans, we are
affected by:
our world;
the people we interact with or live with;
our emotions;
other artworks or ideas we come into contact with.
The Frames are a structure to help us
understand art better, by being aware
of what influences artists, and
different viewpoints.
1. Subjective Frame: The Subjective Frame is to do with FEELINGS
and RESPONSES from the artist or the audience. It also covers
imagination; dreams; atmospheres; memories.
Subjective Frame questions could be:
How do I feel about the artwork?
What do I see?
Is there a mood or atmosphere in the work?
Might it refer to memories or dreams?
What emotional response might the artist / art critic / art
historian be aiming for from the audience?
• How is the personality of the artist / writer conveyed?
Vincent van Gogh (Dutch,
1853-1890)Wheat Field
with Crows, oil on
canvas,50 x 103 cm, 1890
The various frames lend themselves to different artworks and
movements in art. This writing uses the Subjective Frame to write
about Vincent’s painting:
The painting is of a landscape with no figures in it except a flock of
crows. It gives the work a kind of loneliness. There are no
buildings either, which may add to this feeling. There seems to be
a lot of energy that the artist has put into the painting, by the way
he has applied the paint. This energy, combined with the boldness
of the colours he’s used, make the atmosphere of the scene
somewhat agitated and intense.
2. Structural Frame: looks at the way the artwork is actually
created, including composition, materials, and technology. This
frame also looks for symbols (visual meanings) or visual language.
Also, what art movement that the art belongs to (e.g.
Questions in the structural frame may include:
How is the artwork composed?
What materials have been used?
What kind of technologies has the artist used?
What symbols or codes may be used to convey information?
Jim Schindler, (U.S. n.d.) McDonald’s logo, 1962.
Using the Structural Frame to write
about the McDonald’s logo:
The image is simply composed, with a single capital letter “M”
being formed by two arches. The M is placed centrally and takes up
a large part of the field, which signifies its importance. The gold
colour could also symbolise importance, or power. The image is
created industrially, so there are no brush marks or evidence of
human hand. It is designed with a purpose, rather than created as
an artwork. It’s purpose is to be instantly recognisable, as well as
fun. We know it means ‘McDonalds’.
What other meanings could we read in this image?
3. Cultural Frame: this frame considers the WHEN and the
WHERE an artwork was created. Depending upon our cultural
context, artworks can mean different things to different people.
We can’t get away from cultural influences, whether we are
aware of them or not. What is acceptable, offensive, funny or
meaningful does change over time and space. It also may look at
the artist’s philosophy, politics and intention.
Questions using the Cultural Frame could be:
Are the signs and symbols specific to a particular culture?
How might other cultures understand this?
Is the artist attempting to reflect the attitudes of a time and place?
Are beliefs about race, gender, social class included in the work?
Does the work have a political significance?
The artist Shirin Neshat talks about her own work,
Using the Cultural Frame….
Shirin Neshat, (Iran, b.1957) Speechless,
2 pieces from the series Women of Allah,
photograph & ink, 1993-7
4. Postmodern: Postmodernism was a movement in art, around the 1980s90s. This Frame arose from that period. This Frame is most relevant to use for
art that has been created since the 1980s.
This frame acts to challenge and question what is truth; and previously held
rules or conventions. An important idea is that there is no one, single truth;
that groups within society who were previously not heard or not recognised,
have their own stories and their own truths (for instance, youth; women; gay
people, indigenous peoples.)
Another key idea in the Postmodern frame is that there is nothing truly
original….that things are rearranged, and only the MEANING changes.
Postmodern frame questions could be:
How does the art challenge history?
Are traditions disregarded by the artist? How?
How are signs and symbols being reinvented to create new meanings?
Are conventions such as irony, parody, and appropriation being used?
Does the artwork de-stabilise our expectations? (Does it do something we are not
expecting an artwork to do?)
Banksy, (U.K., n.d.) Follow your Dreams,
Boston 2010
Banksy’s art is well suited to using
the Postmodern frame.
Here we have the phrase ‘follow your dreams’, which is a cliché of
Western society. It’s one of those sayings that parents or teachers
might say. The idea behind it is that if only you are prepared to put in
enough effort, anything you want can be yours. By showing an image
of a workman who’s just put ‘cancelled’ over it, Banksy is questioning,
or challenging, the truth of the original saying.
He is using parody (imitating something in order to ridicule it.) He is
also using irony (which is seeming to mean one thing, but actually
meaning something else.) These two often go together.
These Frames sound so confusing…..
You will start to get the hang of them over time. You honestly will.
We will be practising with these terms every session, and by the
time the Exam rolls around, you will feel much more comfortable
with them.
Rosemary Laing, (Aust. B 1959) Weather #10, C type Photograph, 110 x 180cm, 2006
Let’s use the Structural Frame to have a talk about this image

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