Critical Analysis: Time and narrative: How philosophical thinking can support the discipline of Illustration. J. Mozkowicz.
fig 1 Tim Vyner. Mantse Palace (date unknown)
The paper argues for an explicit philosophical grounding to be embedded within illustration education. Moszkowicz states that adopting clearly developed methodologies, would address current, often superficial and style-centered practices, and create a place for a deeper understanding of the role and function of illustration practice. Moszkowicz’s proposal to foreground philosophical practice was made in response to an acknowledgment that much contemporary illustration is concerned with style over content (Zeegan 2012). I have chosen one section, which examines the work of Tim Vyner through the phenomenological methodology of Paul Ricoeur. This is the final part of a paper, which introduces the philosophy of phenomenology and also looks at the work of Eisner, a Graphic narrative illustrator.
Moszkowicz’s proposal is particularly relevant to my research. As an art school educator, one of my responsibilities is to develop curriculum, which will encourage students to explore and find their own view of the world, and is concerned with communication of meaning, not style.
Moszkowicz uses the philosophies of Paul Ricoeur and the work of Tim Vyner, to draw attention to methodologies, such as phenomenology, which she believes are already implicit in Illustration practice.
She proposes that Ricoeur’s ideas are an appropriate intellectual partner to illustration practice, because his work deals with narrative and time. He believes in a phenomenological hermeneutical approach, which makes sense of the world through language. He considers important the idea of a narrative identity, which isn’t just within the language/ image, but is also the identity of self, both image maker and intended viewer.
Moszkowicz uses an analysis of the work of Tim Vyner to illuminate and support her argument, suggesting that Vyner is unusually adept at employing “semantic pertinence” (Ricoeur 2004: 178) in his illustrations. His ability to include and communicate the content that he wants, within the tight world of agency commissioning is also why he was chosen as an example.
Moszkowicz maintains that with philosophical thought an illustrator will understand and be able to employ sophisticated metaphor and mimesis to tell a bigger picture, and give social and historical context through their work. This is an important point she makes, as a critical engagement with the wider issues would give work depth and cultural relevance.
She argues that illustrators should also be able to situate their work not just as an object, but as a conduit for re imagining and re experiencing the world and that Ricoeur’s ideas would explicitly help them to achieve this.
Vyner is a reportage artist. The work analysed is a series of single illustrations made at world sporting events. Vyner selects subjects that allow him to explore the impact of an event on the lives and habitat of ordinary people.
Moszkowicz dissects Vyner’s illustration through Ricoeur’s three-stage process of mimesis. In the first stage Vyner uses his understanding of the world to compose metaphors, which describe the narrative. He describes this as a “kit of parts” to be read (from an interview with Vyner by Mozkowicz, March 2012). This metaphoric language, invented by Vyner, is read by the viewer as though through Vyner’s eyes.
In the second stage, Vyner makes the work, which is organized and composed using his semiotic language. Moszkowicz states that this is the stage where the components, detail and composition of the image have the potential to take the viewer out of the frame and so to a longer, weightier narrative. Vyner does this by knowingly leaving visual markers that refer to bigger socio-political events, and to history, for example, in the small, understated details that identify the house (which at first glance looks like a club house), as the Museum of Slavery (fig 1). In a second image, the intentional juxtaposition of local vernacular adverts against those of corporate sponsors highlight the disparity between rich and poor. Colour throughout the illustrations is chosen to give a general ‘sense of place’. Vyner has constructed a multiplicity of narratives within his images.
Finally, in the third stage of mimesis, the image is read. Moszkowicz asserts that through this reading, the reader is transported to other times and places, through the diachronic imagery in the illustration, (the slave trade in this instance). If philosophy was taught within illustration, then perhaps this is where it would impact the most. Illustrators would understand that their work has the power to take the viewer somewhere else, through the illustrator’s eyes, and this Moszkowicz states would be a transformative experience for the reader.
Moszkowicz holds Vyner up as a model of illustration practice, and attributes a phenomenological hermeneutic thinking behind his process. Through a close study of several of his works, she has established that Vyner is able to successfully demonstrate Ricoeur’s ideology in an intuitive way.
Her analysis of the way he makes meaning is descriptive and logical, following Ricoeur’s mimetic rules. His ‘kit of parts’ description belies a solid grasp of semantics, which are the essential tools of an illustrator. She stresses that Vyner is not typical of many illustrators because he is able to bring in bigger social statements, and demonstrate an acute awareness of the world, yet be employed for other reasons. It is apparent that she has carefully considered Vyner as her choice of example, and indeed earlier in the paper, she discusses her reasoning for this, discounting other illustrators who, at first glance, are better placed.
Moszkowicz has been able to identify an underlying philosophy in the working methods and illustrations of Vyner. This supports her conclusion that philosophical methodologies are inherent (even if they are implicit) in illustration practice.
MOSZKOWICZ, J. (2012). ‘Time and Narrative: How philosophical thinking can support the discipline of Illustration’. VaroomLab [online]. 1 p.45. Available from: http://www.varoom-mag.com/?page_id=315 [Accessed 6 December 2016]
RICOEUR, P. (2004). The rule of Metaphor: The creation of meaning in language. [Online]. (1986) London. New York. Routledge. Available from: https://books.google.ae/books?id=aDup1b6CNTYC&pg=PA178&lpg=PA178&dq=semantic+pertinence&source=bl&ots=pQqazk7Gm8&sig=kKVF39DDYE-d8a6iO-x2Y3J-wrU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjU4Y6FveHQAhUFNxQKHQdzBi0Q6AEIMjAE#v=onepage&q=semantic%20pertinence&f=false [Accessed 6 December 2016]
RICOEUR, P. (2006) Time and Narrative Volume 1.(Trans.) MCLAUGHLIN, K and D, PELLAUER [Online]
Chicago. University of Chicago Press.
Available from: http://www.al-edu.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Paul-Ricoeur-Time-and-Narrative-vol1.pdf [Accessed 6 December 2016]
ZEEGAN, L. (2012). Where is the content? Where is the comment? Creative Review. [Online].
Available from: https://www.creativereview.co.uk/where-is-the-content-where-is-the-comment-2/
(Accessed 5 December 2016].