«Thesis presented to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Zurich for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Mark Staff Brandl of USA and ...»
Depending on the composition, perhaps the piece is vertical, yet stresses its downward movement. This would elicit metaphors of "DOWN." Long, winding sentences could be seen as matching the experience of taking a leisurely journey. Image-mapping consists in conducting a kind of "sampling" of the world of experience. It does not, therefore, have to be only a visual one, although I believe it generally is. It might be based in one of the other senses, or as our culture becomes increasingly multimedial, it might be based on a combination of sensory impressions.
"New metaphors are mostly structural," according to Lakoff and Johnson.16 For artists, the structure of form and the structure of desired meaning (i.e., content) are functions of one another. When an image-mapping is solidly rooted in structural similarity, Lakoff and Turner refer to it as "iconic."
This is, in general, what iconicity in language is: a metaphorical image-mapping in which the structure of the meaning is understood in terms of the structure of the form of the language presenting that meaning. Such mappings are possible because of the existence of image-schemas, such as schemas characterizing bounded spaces (with interiors and exteriors), paths, motions along those paths, forces, parts and wholes, centers and peripheries, and so on.17 Therefore, metaphor(m)s are often iconic image-mappings or image schemas raised to life- determining power, Weltanschauungen. To return to my chapter-metaphor of painting, here I have reached what painters refer to as their style or approach. The second of these terms is often preferred by creators because in common use the term style has been debased, signifying nothing more than individual, characteristic forms of expression without content or thought — habitual, unconscious quirks also referred to as tics. True style is much more than this. The linguistic field of stylistics shows how rich the concept can be. While such study has chiefly been carried out on literature in books such as The Concept of Style, it has exciting implications for the visual arts as well.18 Style is the distinctive, personal mode of production and expression of an artist which is visibly unique to his work: one's individualistic, intellectually and emotionally-charged mechanics of embodying meaning. In my own case, which is discussed below, this becomes more of a modus operandi, as the term is used by police to describe a criminal's characteristic way of committing a crime, rather than a stable series of representational choices.
Cognitive theorists have addressed this issue primarily at the level of what is commonly termed extended metaphor or conceit. The relationship of these two terms to central trope is described at the end of this chapter. In Chapter 20 of Metaphors We Live By, the authors succinctly outline how the shapes of sentences can embody metaphoric purpose. This chapter's title could serve as a wonderful epigraph to my theory: "How Metaphor Can Give Meaning to Form." There are many forms of tropaic reasoning by which technical aspects can be re-envisioned and pressed into service as metaphor(m)s. Lakoff and Johnson have listed a few resources for "indirect understanding" of entities, which are also often at work in central
trope: entity structure, orientational structure, dimensions of experience, experiential gestalts, background, highlighting, interactional properties and prototypes. 19 The Chart I am an inveterate lover of diagrams and charts, perhaps because I use similar structures in my art, yet I always enjoy them in theoretical essays, no matter what they are about. Thus, like all the theories I find most pleasing, mine has a chart (fig. 8). It describes the production of central tropes and is noticeably based on Fauconnier and Turner's diagrams of conceptual blending, such as that on page 46 of The Way We Think.20 I will lay the chart out in words. A formal element of art-making (the left-hand yellow oval, Input Space 1 in Fauconnier and Turner's terms) is seen to be (or appears to be able to be made to be) like an image (the right-hand light blue oval, Input Space 2). This cross-space mapping yields two cognitive spaces: first, the Generic Space in the authors' terms, above the two ovals, which I have simply titled "Space." This is an imaginary zone which contains what the two inputs have in common, one's working space. This is pictured in my diagram with a stage-like curve in green. It is that site wherein the blending becomes possible and useable.
Fauconnier and Turner's charts of cognitive blending suggest an equality of the two inputs which I find especially apt for describing central metaphor in visual art. I have turned their Generic Space oval into an embracing, stage-like form to better illustrate the way in which this space is the background, amphitheater and world of most artists. It is indeed an arena of sorts for artists, representing their art itself, their medium when particularized, and their life as artists when broadened. Most importantly, mapped onto one another, the two inputs blend to produce the metaphor(m), the green oval at bottom, the Blended Space as Fauconnier and Turner call it. This is the specific trope unique to that creator (and often reveals the reason, or drive behind the initial mapping). This trope, by generalization, is based in the foundational metaphors (the larger, darker blue oval on the right) with which all think in the culture under question. This self discovery, or self-construction, of a metaphor(m) is delimiting in that not all core metaphors are then applicable, but is also enriching and constructive, as it permits the artist integrated access to all the related foundational tropes (thus the larger size of the blue oval, of which only a section overlaps with the image oval). This metaphor(m) can then be applied to as many aspects of an artist's process and creations as she desires, or is able to achieve, through extensions and applications of her central trope. This is represented in the chart by the cascading, overlapping ovals emanating out of the metaphor(m) oval. One goal and measure of artistic success is how completely a creator accomplishes a thorough pervasiveness of the central trope throughout the elements of creation: creating many of these offshoot ovals. The entire chain of image-mapping through trope complex to foundational metaphors is exciting to trace in the oeuvre of artists. I do it in this dissertation to several creators, sequencing Lakoffian chains of metaphorical reasoning. From my own experience, I suspect creators in their own thoughts place the weight on the initial creative discernment of seeing a trope in a technical or formal quality, for that is the vision that granted them their individual theatre of possibilities, their future. By and large, this visual and tropaic breakthrough is accomplished by artists in the process of creating works, the so called "happy
accident" or "aha"-experience. This circles back on our central thesis, showing the inevitable centrality of embodiment and performative, perceptual experience to innovation.
fig. 8 The Chart of Metaphor(m) I have painted my way into a theory, one that is a doorway, though, not a corner. The proof of any hypothesis, nevertheless, is in the testing. This statement has more to do with painting than most people imagine. Artists who have chosen to be makers of objects do so because we are unremitting believers in a world "out there," one involving our bodies and reality exterior to us, beyond a simply conceptualized world. Very few painters are cryptoDescartian dualists in the way that many Conceptualists appear to be, except for rampantly subjectivist Expressionists (who may go as far as solipsism). Those two groups have much more in common than they would ever dare admit, both splitting the mind (whether thoughts or emotions) from the body. That is one source of the enmity between the two; they share a philosophy of mind/body split, while esteeming opposed halves and scorning the other. We who are not of those two camps believe one cannot truly think without making. Production is followed by judgment of the creation, both for its internal qualities and in regard to the external experience to which it refers, which instigates alterations and adaptations, that is, additional making — further painting — and so on, until the object appears to be complete enough to be sent out on its own. This is the dialectic of the fabricated object and palpable The Theory of Central Trope 59 experience. I will now carry out something similar with my theory, applying it intently to two test cases.
Vincent van Gogh
Two applications serve as overt trials of my theory of central trope, first to an artistic and then to a literary oeuvre. In effect, I am painting portraits of the celebrated painter Vincent van Gogh's art and the equally famous author Ernest Hemingway's writing as seen through the method of my theory, looking for the presence of metaphor(m) and the process of its creation within their works. Experimenting on these two figures, I found that they provide excellent models of metaphor(m) at work. In each case, a central trope could be demonstrated in their work concisely, yet without over-simplification, typifying the utility of the theory in clarifying the nuts-and-bolts of creative achievement, which is my goal for the employment of this concept. However, I am jumping ahead of the study itself; let me trace the inquiry from start to finish.
Van Gogh had been one of my initial inspirations for this theory. In fact, I was contemplating his paintings' technique and pondering his influences when the image of his brushstroke as a small flame struck me. This led to much of the thought already mentioned in the Preface. In contrast, I chose Hemingway as a difficult case, due to that fact that one of his chief ambitions was to avoid metaphor. While I am primarily concerned with visual art, Hemingway was himself openly indebted to painting. Additionally, he offers a second subject for initial study who is far from van Gogh's aesthetic interests, techniques and aspirations.
As is well-known, van Gogh's self-professed goal was to bring the expression of emotion into Modernist painting. He achieved this to such an extent that, since his death, he has served as the paragon of success in the expression of passion in the arts. Granting his personal goal, how did he realize and embody this in his actual objects? How did he harmonize his influences from various forerunners, none of whom would seem to be an obvious candidate on which to ground an art of passion? This is a crucial point, as the pursuit of a central trope best begins with a close analysis of a creator's agon.
Van Gogh desired to be both Jean-François Millet and Claude Monet. His interest in Millet sprang from the empathy van Gogh felt for the earlier painter's subject matter. Millet expressed sympathy for the lives and environments of peasants. Van Gogh's painting The Potato Eaters of 1885 (fig. 9) is a culmination of his immersion in Millet. This work, though, in its heavy browns and greens, deep shadows and blocky brushwork reveals that the battle for his own central trope had just begun in earnest at this point. Shortly thereafter, van Gogh began to struggle with the methods of the Impressionists, following his contact with contemporary artists in Paris. At the same time, he discovered certain Japanese prints, including those of the prolific artist known in the West as Katsushika Hokusai. Fusing Millet, Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, pp. 145-146.
The Theory of Central Trope 60 Monet and Hokusai into one composite predecessor figure, van Gogh applied combined elements of their techniques in attempts to convey his personal obsession with emotion. The desire to express passion was the focus of van Gogh's vision; it was the engine of his endeavors.
He struggled with Millet-like subject matter and Impressionist paint application, adding a dash of Japanese draftsmanship. From the Impressionists he seized on brilliant color and the small, dash-like paint strokes. Nevertheless, their fascination with the play of light on surfaces did not interest him. Van Gogh's misprision succeeded when he mapped the image of a flame onto the dot of Impressionist brushwork. This justified and heightened his use of sharp, glowing color and his frenzied draftsmanship. Van Gogh had antithetically become more "primitive" than Millet, while using similar subject matter, hence could envision himself to be "earlier" in a fashion. He painted more directly, less studiously than the Impressionists, again a form of imaginatively becoming prior to them. The heavy, segmented strokes of Japanese wood-block outlines offered a thicker, more direct form of mark-making which could assume the contours of flames.
In his paintings van Gogh makes a progression employing a complex of many tropes.
The metonymies "a flame is fire" and "fire is hot" lead directly to the foundational metaphor "PASSION IS HOT."This merges easily with "LIFE IS FIRE" and "LIFE IS HEAT."A key synecdoche plays a major role, "the brushstroke is painting." The artist expanded this chain of reasoning to all elements of his works, even composition, in analogous ways. "Passion is life" is his self-acknowledged central belief. "Brushstroke is flame is painting is passion is life" is his metaphor(m), his true central trope.
This can be seen mostly clearly in paintings such as the intense self-portraits of 1889 and 1890 from St. Rémy, the wild sky of the world famous Starry Night of 1889 (fig. 10), or the flaming trees in Cornfield and Cypress Trees of the same year. Van Gogh had found his central trope and himself by discovering forms which palpably embody his perception of the world, which Robert Rosenblum in Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition succinctly describes as a "passionate empathy with nature, as almost a direct extension of human emotions"22. He elaborated it in varied, and highly creative, if not always "healthy" forms. In dynamic use it could elicit perception of the blazing, living, growing soul of nature as in the still lifes of Sunflowers from Arles. Barely restrained from swelling into a conflagration, it carries psychological richness in the Self Portrait of May 1890 (fig. 11).
Finally, it has become a devouring holocaust in several last works, such as Crows Over a Wheat Field of 1890.