How to Appreciate Art As the Viewer

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I am going to suggest ways to appreciate art and experience it in a way that is honest and fair to the viewer visiting art galleries, art exhibitions, and art museums and other art displays. Being an art viewer can be very fulfilling and enjoying but it also causes unease among those who don’t really know how to approach art because of all the uncertainty.

It’s important to acknowledge that I’m not providing a check-list of ways of looking at art but providing a guide for more engaging art viewing. I would like to change the attitude some people have which is giving a two second glance at an artwork (although if you can’t grasp the viewer’s interest this is simply being selective) or trying to find meaning in the exhibition label rather than looking at the art face to face.

First I will start with a quote from Keith Haring in his Journal, October 14, 1978

“The meaning of art as it is experienced by the viewer, not the artist. The artist’s ideas are not essential to the art as seen by the viewer. The viewer is an artist in the sense that he conceives a given piece of his own way that is unique to him. His own imagination determines what it is, what it means. The viewer does not have to be considered during the conception of the art, but should not be told, then, what to think or how to conceive it or what it means. There is no need for definition.”

Second- scanning an artspace is perfectly normal, there is no way that anyone can view every piece for several minutes nor are they interested in everything exhibited. Scan the place to see what you are most attracted to and go to that artwork.

Third- Try to understand what it is that attracted you to this piece (although beauty attracts many people and many artworks are beautiful, all art isn’t beautiful so this might not be your primary reason for liking a particular piece.)

Fourth- Look up close and take steps back (circle around it if it’s an installation or sculpture that allows for engagement at more than one special perspective.) Try to understand why a certain medium was used, how it feels like physically and how that relates to the visual product. If a painting look at the brush strokes, the edges between foreground, object and background, the color transitions, where does light come from, and how do you react emotionally to the way the piece presents itself.

If a sculpture or installation walk around it, think about the material, how it was made, how it interacts with the space it’s in, what do the shapes look like, what effect does it have on you the viewer.

Fifth- After personal interaction with the piece on an emotional and raw level where only you interact according to your primary feelings, it can be helpful to contextualize. This means looking at the exhibition label, does its title reflect, change, or support the way you initially reacted to this art piece? The curators of this exhibit put a lot of care and time in creating the labels or wall panel supporting the artwork through words so it can be helpful to read what their thoughts are as well as your own. Sometimes contextualizing and knowing how the art fits in historically can understand why it was special for its time, why people thought it was so original, and you may learn a bit of art history and ideas also occurring at the time this artwork was produced.

Sixth- If you really like the art work, it can help to keep a personal analog of artists or artworks you enjoy for future reference or expansion. For instance, you may want to see upcoming exhibits from this artist to know more about their art, or read up on articles to understand more about the process and what attracted you to their art in the first place. Using art information resources and art database searches are fantastic for this type of artistic personal expansion. This can be useful for students (pretty much anyone who loves art), collectors, teachers, or dealers in the arts.

Lastly, once you’ve fully enjoyed a work of art move on to the next one that attracts your interest and you will be surprised to find you may be attracted to it for completely different reasons than the last one. It’s a journey of self-discovery and visual pleasure so enjoyment is key. It’s more important to appreciate a new pieces because it will be more memorable than to give two seconds to every artwork in a museum simply because you feel the need to step foot on every floor.


Source by Kieran Shep

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