Visual literacy and visual literature: Literarts that have to be learnt

Noguera, Teresa (2010) Visual literacy and visual literature: Literarts that have to be learnt. In: 4th Global Conference: Visual Literacies - Exploring Critical Issues; 07-09 July 2010, Oxford, U.K.. (Unpublished)


It has been suggested that visual language skills come ‘naturally,’ that they do not need to be learned or taught. But a closer look shows this not to be true at all. The ability to see and not merely look at the forms of art significantly influences an individual’s ability to produce visual art. When the visual sensibilities are developed so that individuals are responsive to visual form, it is then possible to use the data acquired through such perception as resources for one’s own creative work (Eisner, 2002). Creation and appreciation are complex cognitive-perceptual activities that do not simply emerge full blown on their own, they are influenced by experience and learning. The visual does act as a system of communication and so has to be learned (Anning & Ring, 2004). This is crucial because the more one knows about speaking the language of art the better s/he will be at communicating through it. Stewig (1988: 79) asks “where in the curriculum do children learn to ‘compose’ or ‘read’ visual input – to examine it carefully part by part, extracting meaning and interacting with what is extracted?” Such processes are central to visual literacy and literature programs, but few children learn to compose or read visual texts effectively. This paper proposes to examine examples of painted narrative images and the accompanying verbal accounts of these narratives produced by a group of Year 3 children who partook in a Narrative Painting Programme. The intent of the programme was twofold: to demonstrate (1) that in order to develop a rich and subtle consciousness of the special characteristics of the visual such knowledge must be learned, and (2) the significance of this knowledge to effective visual communication.

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