Art Terminology

VANISHING POINT

The point at which receding parallel lines viewed in perspective appear to converge. The vanishing point is used as part of the system of perspective, which enables the creation the illusion of the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional picture surface.

VANITAS

A still life artwork which includes various symbolic objects designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the worthlessness of worldly goods and pleasures. The term originally comes from the opening lines of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: ‘Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ Vanitas …

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VERISM

From Italian term ‘verismo’, meaning realism in its sense of gritty subject matter. Was originally applied around 1900 to the violent melodramatic operas of Puccini and Mascagni. In painting it has also has come to mean realism in its modern sense of representing objects with a high degree of truth to appearances.

VERSO / RECTO

Terms used for the front and back of a single sheet of paper, or the right-hand and left-hand page of an open book. The front or face of a single sheet of paper, or the right-hand page of an open book is called the recto. The back or underside of a single sheet of paper, …

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VIDEO

Art that involves the use of video and /or audio data and relies on moving pictures. The introduction of video in the 1960s radically altered the progress of art. The most important aspect of video was that it was cheap and easy to make, enabling artists to record and document their performances easily. This put …

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VIRTUAL REALITY

A technology that enables a person to interact with a computer-simulated environment, be it based on a real or an imagined place. The computer scientist Jaron Lanier popularised the term virtual reality in the early 1980s. Virtual reality environments are usually visual experiences, displayed on computer screens or through special stereoscopic displays. Some simulations include …

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VISUAL ETHNOGRAPHY

Ethnography is the study and interpretation of social organisations and cultures in everyday life. It is a research-based methodology, and when this research is conducted using photography, video or film, it is called visual ethnography. Artists operating in this field arguably date back to the 1930s and 1940s with projects like Mass Observation, which documented …

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VITRINE

A large, glass cabinet used for displaying art objects. Often used in museums, the vitrine was appropriated by artists like Joseph Cornell in the 1950s and Joseph Beuys in the mid 1960s to display unusual materials they invested with spiritual or personal significance.

VORTICISM

The vorticists were a British avant-garde group formed in London in 1914 with the aim of creating art that expressed the dynamism of the modern world. The group was founded by the artist, writer and polemicist, Wyndham Lewis in 1914. Their only group exhibition was held in London the following year. Vorticism was launched with …

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