Between the verbal and visual


People’s lives are teeming with elements that belong to the visual and verbal world. However, it is important to experience how and why these elements react in different ways and, most of all, how and why people react differently in front of the verbal and visual.

Experiencing this factors, though, can be conceived as a daily habit, because our senses are developed to catch these things since the day we were born. During his/her growth, a human being tends to ‘piece together the myriad sensory and material conditions summed up in the … [life] experience’, as Mitchell (1994) states in his book Picture Theory.

Anthropologically and ethnographically, visual and verbal elements are the basis of man’s development as a citizen and as human being.

Our way of interacting with things is always unique and sometimes inexplicable. Every person’s background is an important element capable of determining why we make specific choices rather than others. However, these choices are determined by the way we use our senses and how these can interact with the empirical world.

Moreover, ‘memories, people, events, objects [can be] recognized as forms of data that can provide valuable descriptive data’. (Mitchell, 1994).

This means that the way we explore the world and its phenomenon can be perceived, the most of the time, towards the visual and/or verbal description (books, exhibitions, films, newspapers).

Many are the points that differentiate these two descriptive forms, and many are the reasons why people chose to adopt the visual rather than verbal form to explain a determined context or idea, and vice versa.

The abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock, explains what is important in identifying a visual practice, and how this can elicit meaning:


‘The specificity of how the visual is articulated in this practice as opposed to that practice, now I think matters. Not for the purpose of saying, this one is better or more perpetually valuable or more intrinsically civilised, a reflection of humanistic values, etc. but because you can’t work out what is going on unless you can actually say what’s specific to this practice… Not what meanings does it produce, but what makes it possible to produce any meaning at all, to have an effect? What makes it possible is the relationship between some aspect of its systematicity and what it actually is resourced by, which is outside of its system. (Pollock)


It is important, in terms of perception, to link our impulses to psychological studies that explain, as Pollock also claims, why we are attracted to a colour more than another:

‘Apparently blue is perceived around the margins of your eyes and because the child’s retina develops very slowly, blues are some of the first colours the the child perceives.’ (Pollock)

Andrea Pramuk, Blueline IV


However, the verbal description places its roots around the visual world, since it is an important tool capable of accentuating and describing the way a determined visual element is conceived.


‘Verbal description uses non-visual language to convey the visual world. It can navigate a visitor through a museum, orient a listener to a work of art, or provide access to the visual aspects of a performance.’ (, 2016)


An image cannot always tell us everything. This is its beauty, its mystery, the innate enigma that is hidden in the visual world.

This is the reason why we use verbal description as a tool that turns art into words, that help us in its understanding.

As explained in the website Art Beyond Sight:


‘For artworks, a verbal description includes standard information included on a label, such as the name of the artist, nationality, title of the artwork, date, dimensions or scale of the work, media and technique. More important, verbal description includes a description of the subject matter and the composition of the work.’ (2016)


The both visual and verbal, thus, can meld together in the achievement of the aesthetic satisfaction, that sometimes cannot be reached with the only use of the eyes. A visual element or artwork needs to be ‘touched’ first in every inches of its corners to be fully understood. Of course, the visual is what gives us the firsts inputs, but to be fully immersed in a thing, the comprehension of its background, its colours, its shapes, and of its creator is fundamental in the achievement of its meaning.

Visual Concept of the human body.







Mitchell, W. (1994). Picture theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (2016). Verbal Description Training. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Apr. 2016].


Images, (2016). [image]., (2016).[image]., (2016). [image]., (2016). [image].


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