When thinking about the external world, the first thing that comes to my mind is environment. This, among a wide variety of kinds, includes the social, natural, urban and indoor environments. However, in my paintings, I focused on representing my indoor environment. This understanding requires cognitive knowledge about such an environment. The following excerpt from the article Transfer of Spatial Knowledge from Virtual to Real Environments briefly explains one’s need to obtain either a physical or a cognitive map in order to deal with environments.
‘In large spaces, people are frequently required to move towards unseen goals and therefore they must plan their movements. To do so, spatial knowledge about the environment is required, which may be in the form of a physical map or a cognitive map. (Peruch, Belingard, Thinus-Blanc, 2003, 253)’
As pointed out in the previous chapters, we recognize the external world through our internal representations of it. How about cognitive mapping? It was Edward Tolman, American psychologist, who first coined the term, cognitive map.
‘Cognitive map is an internal representation of the external environmental feature or landmark…It is almost like a model of that environment in one’s brain. (Tolman, 1948, 189)’
According to an article by Elspeth Graham, a cognitive map is considered as an ‘image’ of the larger environment. It is defined as the result of the mental filtering and coding of sensory data and as something subjective and unique. Mental representations are considered as naturally distorted; therefore, cognitive maps are naturally defective. (Graham, 1976, 259)
In my mind, the ‘image’ of the indoor environment of the faculty is claustrophobic and monochromatic. In a way, it looks much like a labyrinth or, almost like a trap without exit. To give an example, even if there is light coming from the windows during the day, I remember it as if it is always dark. In addition, besides my studio, the walls of the corridors and the classrooms are light beige coloured but, in my mind, they are more yellowish than beige. I can state that my paintings represent this ‘image’ of the faculty’s indoor environment, or, explicitly, its cognitive collages.
Therefore, cognitive mapping can be considered as a metaphor for the mental representations of the environment. However, for Barbara Tversky, professor of psychology and education, in utilising a cognitive map as a metaphor, the complex and rich knowledge about a person’s environment is not being reflected. Tversky suggests that using the term cognitive collage is more convenient since the information about spatial relations with objects, which contains mental representations, comes from many perspectives and is full of cognitive errors. Tversky adds to this by defining cognitive collage as a combination of perceptions from different perspectives and parts coming from various sources which have different qualities. (Tversky, 1992, 135)
Regarding the context of my paintings, using the term cognitive collage to define them seems more adequate. I consider the interiors I use in my paintings to be the cognitive collages of their actual locations. With my subjectivity reflected upon them, cognitive collages of my indoor environment could also be considered psychological places. Nevertheless, initially, I would like to write about the way I make sense of this indoor environment in the subsequent chapter.