Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS)


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Uhlmann, P. G. (2012). To see the world clearly: - painting, the camera obscura and the lens of Spinoza. Proceedings of Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) Conference. (pp. 9). Canberra, Australia. Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS).


My practice-led PhD research project seeks to find ways to create immersive painting installations to invoke contemplation of immanence, interconnectedness and impermanence in the mind of the viewer. In this paper I will discuss the methodology of my practice-led research as it relates to the concept of sensation (Deleuze) in relation to the body and to painting. In addition to this I will outline ways in which Spinoza’s monist concept of ‘one substance’ has illuminated and influenced my thinking and work. Central to this concept is the notion that mind and matter are not two separate things but one thing. Spinoza (1632-77) was a philosopher who was exiled from his Jewish society at the young age of 24 and was forced to grind glass lenses in order to make a living. I am interested in how the lens may be seen to be a powerful metaphor for perception. Spinoza wanted his philosophy to enable others to ‘see clearly’. Living in Holland, in the time of Vermeer (1632-75), sharing the company of artists and having an active interest himself in the mechanics of drawing, he no doubt was aware of how his accurately ground lenses could be put to good use to create cameras obscura. Although the knowledge of this simple optical device is ancient, it still has the power to bring wonder back to our distracted, fractured lives. If we are able to find ways to pause and contemplate the world anew, then we will understand at a deeper level our profound interconnectedness to all living things. We will therefore think and act differently, for we will realise that what we do to the environment we do to ourselves.

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