The Conceptual Framework is how students start to grasp the bigger meanings in artworks. It provides a context of questions, a framework, that students can apply to artworks to start to deconstruct and unravel layers of meaning and interpretations of those meanings. It can be the beginning of understanding that the world is a vast and complex place that could very well be a fishbowl, balancing on an elephants back, floating out in space, on top of a whale. That anything can mean everything, and nothing, all at the same time. But for sanity in the classroom questions tend to be structured around more tangible and relational areas of understanding and explanation.
The Conceptual Framework is represented by a diagram that is very masonic in its appearance, the mythical triangle of meaning. It places the artwork in the center of the triangle (or on top of the pyramid of power!) and has the world, audience and artist at each point, being the four agencies (or concepts). All four concepts interact and converge, which creates meaning for an artwork.
The Conceptual Framework is understood from exploring the four concepts from within the four Frames, which are the Subjective, Cultural, Structural and Postmodern. Add in art making/practice and you have the trifecta of the Creative Arts Syllabus. Most students will happily slop around with paint (‘Don’t pour so much out! It’s a waste!‘ is a phrase I have said very very often), but engaging them to open up with discussion and to understand the concepts and frames on how to questions and view art is harder. But once they have a clear understanding, they can apply the concepts, viewpoints and questions to other subjects (e.g. in English when reflecting on a novel) and it allows students to be more reflective and critical in their understanding.