International Journal of Art & Design Education

Making Sense in Art Lessons

Volume 19.3   2000



Meaning in the arts has been explained in terms of the ‘linguistic / cognitive’ metaphor, that is as a product of a framework of conventions, rules and symbols, of shared conceptualisations with a clearly defined ‘conceptual space’. Sense in a work of art is dependent upon this framework and only by conventionalising pupils into it will they be able to communicate meaning. The problem is that the arts take their audience beyond the framework, beyond the boundaries of sense. The question then becomes how the arts continue to have meaning, paradoxically, to continue to make sense even though they have exceeded its boundaries. The solution to this problem, it is argued, lies in the way that the arts appeal directly to our uniquely human ability to reflect on commonly experienced feelings and to consequently transcend particular frameworks of meaning. Rather than meaning being subject to frameworks within which experience and artistic intention are seen to be made possible, I argue that experience has an autonomous presence in art, a presence that enables meaning to be communicated with spontaneity and immediacy.