On Taste: You, Yourself
An appeal to the senses.
Taste can be understood both as a system of aesthetics, and a guideline to propriety. As to what might be labeled presentation—all things seen and owned—taste has two aspects: preference, and received perception. That is: what do you simply like, as opposed to what your peer group instructs you to like . . . or to patronize, one might say?
Biologically, as a consquence of evolutionary selection, we do (to consider the visual alone), have an attraction to certain effects of color and contrast, with rules fairly consistent from person to person.
Here are four color sets, the first two, challenging. You may like either of these: taupe and lime, burgundy and dusty aqua, without having ever worn them together or decorated your house with them.
You probably dislike the pink and forest combo; while nearly everyone likes red and black.
You will notice red and lime are the most intense here, and that the three with similar values: taupe, dusty aqua, and rose pink, mesh in well together. Rose, though well liked of itself, may be the worst player, not happy with either forest or red, nor especially so with lime.
And burgundy, as you see, actively resists this shade of red.
Primaries (reds, blues, yellows) and secondaries (purples, greens, oranges) are thought to mate best with their color-wheel opposites.
Note how shapes that suggest familar things—in this case, what appears a pair of houses—create a narrative, bringing abstract placement closer to primative representation. Here, the addition of the primaries gives a sense of completeness, and takes the eye on a short trip from lower left to lower right.
Here is an outdoor scene filtered two ways, for low and high contrast. The grey is the more atmospheric, brooding. But black and white reduces the amount of information, and raises the level of drama.
The blue ovals give the minimum of information our brain tends to translate as “human”.
The eyes that consist substantially of four lines, convey something of mood, nothing of gender or age. The more fully sketched face conveys maleness, as well as an emotional state.
Take these as four principals in a mini-mystery . . . which character is the detective, which the villain; which the victim, which the chief witness?
Personal preference, without social influence, forms at the root by cue—by brain-stem level association with food, shelter, the need to know friend from enemy. But human beings are gregarious—therefore those objectively measurable qualities we may call “taste” grow from these roots, to be steadily shaped by reactivity.
I attach strongly to a cohort; I think of myself as an iconoclast. I keep up with the latest; I deplore all things popular. I am down-to-earth, unfancy; I am rarified, seeking the arcane.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)