Paintings and their irreducibility to explanation
: myth and multiform aesthetic experience

  • J. H. Milburn

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This Ph.D. consists of a written thesis developed alongside seventeen original oil paintings. The original purpose was to examine through thesis how creative painting practice and a reconsideration of myth in word and image would, or could, express my experience of post-war Bosnia in 1999. In light of the limitations identified with such an approach during the course of this study, the thesis became an analysis of the ways in which we explain art, focussing upon aspects of mythic explanation in particular. For example, by reconsidering James Macpherson‘s national epic Romantic myth The Poems of Ossian, I was able to study the main issues involved. Key writers include Joseph Campbell (1949), Carl Jung (1966) and Levi Strauss (1963/1968), before finally considering Wittgenstein's (1979) remarks on myth. Key contemporary artists include American Pop Surreal painters. The focus of this thesis is not explicitly about the war in Bosnia. It is not necessarily about myth, or of aesthetics philosophy, and it is not exclusively about the series of 17 original oil paintings developed during the course of this study. Rather this study concerns the way in which all of these elements combine to provide the rich and diverse human cultural experience we know as art. It considers thinking about the way in which art engages with the world, from an artist's perspective. The original contribution to knowledge arises from the way in which this study combines theory, practice and experience. The objective was therefore for original works of art to become the key to more interesting theorizing, and vice versa. The thesis concludes that painting is irreducible to explanation, and considers key research areas for future critical discourse.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMurdo Macdonald (Supervisor) & Mary Modeen (Supervisor)

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