Theoretical Frameworks

Conventions and Traditions

A range of definitions that enable an understanding of both terms are widely available.

Conventions (in art) are;

  • ‘established procedures, in making art works, that use particular pictorial devices, techniques or processes to represent, organise, or interpret ideas’ @ Arts Online
  • the tools that artists use to convey meaning and create atheistic value.’ @ Visual Art Conventions
  •  ‘the characteristics and constraints applicable, relevant and fitting to established practice within the fields of design, painting photography, printmaking and sculpture
These include;
  1. image making conventions: approaches and practices
  2. technical conventions: processes, procedures and material handling
  3. pictorial and conceptual conventions: ideas, themes, imagery and contexts’  adapted from Field Conventions for Visual Arts

From the above you can see that when we speak of art that challenges conventions, traditional conventions and / or traditions, it’s essential you as a student have a clear understanding of what is being referred to.


The terms Tradition, Traditional and Traditions (in art) refer to a loose grouping of ideas that relate to ‘the way things have always been done’.

They also refer to;

  • Art that is part of the culture of a group of people.
  • Skills and knowledge passed on through successive generations of practitioners.
  • Non digital art.
  • Artworks made with materials associated with particular practices; e.g., painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, photography.

Any discussion relating to the way that artists / artworks challenge traditions and conventions; by necessity, has to founded in the understanding of what these terms refer to.

The term ‘challenge’ when related to these ideas is in itself problematic. By definition it refers to a call to engage in or to contest the validity or strength of these practices.

to be continued



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