Art creates an emotional response

Annual theme 2018: EMOTION

Reason and feeling

The juxtaposition of reason and feeling and the exploration of their relationship to one another have been at the center of art interpretation since antiquity (Aristotle). The history of art can also be seen as a kind of interplay, in which the mind is in the foreground at one point, and feeling at another time. Of course, every epoch has its own emotional character, but in some times it is particularly pronounced. For example, in the religious ecstasy of the Baroque, in the green mountain peaks and foaming waves of the landscapes of Romanticism or the eruptive eruptions of color of Expressionism ‘. In abstract painting, too, there were and are representatives of emotional painting, be it through the display of gestures or an excessive use of colors.

The term “Gesamtkunstwerk”, which became popular in the artistic avant-garde in the first half of the 20th century, goes back to the Baroque and acquired a well-known symbol with Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau. This concept, which encompasses the various arts, was later continued in media art, in which technology can address all of the senses at the same time. The creation of comprehensive atmospheres in the physical world up to virtual reality allows the total emotional influence of the senses. It is no coincidence that one speaks of "electronic baroque" in this context.


There are positive and negative, simple, complex and of course mixed feelings: love, happiness, longings, dreams - hate, fear, horror, trauma - memory, nostalgia, loss, insecurity - drama, pathos, ecstasy and catharsis and infinitely more . Terms that have different qualities, that describe states or represent ideas. Although the possibilities seem to be infinite, there is a more or less universally coded spectrum of largely unconscious emotional perceptions and reaction patterns in humans. These are partly overlaid by cultural characteristics and the personality of the individual.

Emotions can be expressed in various ways in art, figuratively in connection with spaces, objects or human figures as well as abstractly in mere colors and shapes, narrative as well as atmosphere. Through human consciousness, the basic physical perceptions (cold-hot, hard-soft, up-down, brightness, colors, etc.) are often charged with an emotional meaning. Equally urgent is the need to equip the phenomena of the environment with human character traits and feelings.

For the annual theme 2018, we have found some examples in the visual arts that present the theme from different angles and in different art branches and media.

Body language

Feelings can be expressed in relation to the human body, in facial expressions, gestures and posture. This system of signs, the body language, is a general biological-psychological property that is used and reflected by art with its own means. The description of this gesture language, valid across epochs, led the art scholar Aby Warburg to develop the pathos formula, which assigns universal validity to the representation of emotional expressions through gestures and facial expressions. ▶ Group exhibition Storm heights


The meaning of colors as a stimulant of feelings was already examined in Goethe's theory of colors and is almost always used in visual art - consciously and unconsciously. Especially in painting, but also in installations, films and sculptures, the coloring determines the emotional impact of the works of art. The effect of colors goes beyond the tonal value of the individual colors, differentiated sensations are addressed by "color chords" and of course by shape and environment. Conversely, colors can of course also be assigned to feelings, as in the "Wheel of Emotions" by the American psychologist Robert Plutchik. ▶ Group exhibition Storm heights, Exhibition Philipp Geist


Materials sometimes have very complex modes of action that can trigger strong feelings. Glass, for example, conveys the feeling of cleanliness and honesty through its transparency, its optical properties convey the impression of objectivity when used in scientific devices such as microscopes or lenses. At the same time, glass can also trigger insecurity and fear due to its fragility, while its shine, the refraction of light and reflection also create a mystical, spiritual impression. ▶ Group exhibition Fragile!


The natural environment or man-made objects can also be charged with feelings. Objects are assigned magical abilities, they acquire a personality or human characteristics as if they were being brought to life. In doing so, they can not only pass on feelings, but even have a supposed will of their own. ▶ Exhibitions Andriy Hir and Stefanie Unruh.


The rich and still lively tradition of landscape painting testifies to the feelings projected in landscapes. All formal and content-related aspects are of emotional importance: the directions of the sky, the times of day, the vegetation as well as the formal and color characteristics of the landscape (e.g. local color). In a broader sense, landscape can also be an interior space in which, for example, light and projections create a comprehensive room atmosphere. ▶ Exhibition Philipp Geist