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When I look at a piece of art I don't know what I'm supposed to think

95 replies

spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 17:59

Is this normal?

I'm sure the thoughts I do have are banal.

Any guidance from art appreciating culture vultures?

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SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:02

it's highly normal.

you're not "supposed" to think anything though - a work of art means different things to different people.

If you're thoughts are anything other than "that would go nicely with the curtains" then the art is working - it's making you think. If your thoughts really are banal then perhaps it's not very good.

SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:03

not that i'm a big art expert btw. I just know what i like

harpsichordcarrier · 27/09/2005 18:04

this is quite a good book if you want some pointers

spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:05

The problem is that most pieces of art I look at don't inspire any feeling in me at all. I'm not normally a philistine, but seem to become one when I enter a gallery. I wonder what goes on in the minds of gallery-goers as they amble around?

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lilibet · 27/09/2005 18:06

If you go to a gallery the phone type things that you hold to your ear can be really good at giving you background to a picture and then you can put it into context with the time/place it ws apinted. At Manchester City Gallery some of the commentaries are by Mark and Lard and they are really funny.

Your thoughts are not banal, they are your reaction to something, even if you just stand there thinking 'that's crap', which I do sometimes, it doesn't matter - it's your honest reaction.

I did a bit of a study of Art in my OU course last year and unitl then I had no idea I liked it so much - am now going to do Art History. But very often I stand in front of a picture and think "why the hell did they bother?"

What sort of thing do you like looking at?

SoupDragon · 27/09/2005 18:07

I've seen a few pictures that have leapt out at me and made me go "wow". Otherwise my thoughts tend to be fairly banal. Some galleries I've been to have had great "explanation cards" which point out things in paintings which you may otherwise have missed.

spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:11

I think I'm giving the impression that I don't like art, which isn't the case at all.

I suppose I've been thinking about this after watching Art School on BBC2 and then an interesting programme about women artists with Matthew Collings (I think) at the weekend. I find it all fascinating, but feel frustrated at my lack of knowledge.

Is it important to know something about the background/historical context of a painting in order to appreciate it?

I loved the Caravaggio exhibition last year - I didn't understand the historical context, although had read a bit about the artist himself. What appealed to me about those paintings was the emotional impact of them.

I particularly love line drawings. I spent ages gazing at Dali's drawings when I visited the Dali museum last year. And I love, love, love Quentin Blake. But is that Art?

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kama · 27/09/2005 18:12

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SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:13

Quentin Blake is quite definately art - I think he's amazing the way he can conjure up so much movement and feeling wth just a few lines.

I think historical context often helps, but you can appreciate a picture without it - you can make up your own story. In a lot of ways I think that any art that needs explaining (as opposed to art that is enhanced by explanation) is rubbish.

SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:14

It's like poetry in fact: you can get a lot out of reading the war poets without knowing anything about the history, but if you do know the history it means a lot more.

spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:15

When I read a classic novel, I don't research the historical context of that, although perhaps if I did I would understand/appreciate it even more? I suppose I tend to look for universal human truths in any form of art. Can this equally apply to the visual arts?

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spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:15

Yep, exactly sp!

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SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:18

Kama - yes, some artists do want to express something specific, but they quite often fail. So do authors, but most authors worth their royalties like the fact that people read their books and come away with different ideas entirely to those the author had in mind.

kama · 27/09/2005 18:21

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spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:24

I take your point kama - certainly when looking at non-contemporary works of art I feel lost, clueless - I feel I need to know something of the context, although some, like those Caravaggios, do have an immediate emotional punch, context notwithstanding.

Perhaps then if you look at contemporary British art you can rely on your gut reaction alone, since you live in the same cultural context as the artist?

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SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:25

Well I'm going to find out. I've just bought a book about the historical context of this painting

Don't get me wrong, I do think it's important, but a painting should stand up in its own right too, i think, and the one above certainly does. In fact, so does this picture

spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:26

ha! you ain't gonna catch me that easily

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SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:27
spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:29

Plus people like Brian Sewell are incredibly intimidating.

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SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:31

You mis-spelt irritating there sd.

Really - I think high-brow art critics often just spout rubbish because they're embarrased to admit that their thoughts are sometimes banal too.

spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:34

SP, you won't have seen Art School (unless you can get BBC2 by satellite?), but the paintings/sculptures that the celebs were producing just looked like a load of old crap to me (mostly, some of them looked OK) and yet the art critic woman managed to find some merit in almost all of them. I found many of her remarks incomprehensible though, and that was frustrating. Her talk about "space" in a painting for instance.

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SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:36

yeah, that's the stuff.

My sister has a friend who is an art graduate and he comes out with this kind of stuff about dd's pictures. But he is right of course - the girl's a genius.

spacedonkey · 27/09/2005 18:37

I feel like a dunce. Or are these people just a bunch of ponces?

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SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:38

b) definately!

SenoraPostrophe · 27/09/2005 18:38

b) as in the latter.

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