Are you in a museum right now, or maybe a gallery opening? Is the wine bad and people are saying thing like ‘good vibes’?
The art kinda looks cool, but you have no idea what to make of it?
Well, fret no more because here is the answer: you decide!
Viewing art, especially critically acclaimed art, is often an experience loaded with overpowering expectations. It seems to be asked from you to be familiar with most of the famous artists and their work. To feel impressed and dignified in the presence of avant-garde and expensive pieces.
What often gets lost in this forest of expectations is the true gift of art which is giving us direct insight into another person view of the world.
Meet the art
When viewing art, tap into your senses and thoughts. Become aware of yourself. Try to identify what you feel. That feeling is a valuable observation. Often the artists’ intentions become visible in the first few seconds of being in the presence of their work. And not always it was their intention to supply as with pleasantly colourful paintings.
After the first impression ease into an inner dialogue with the piece. Remember – a person just like you made this. With the same longings, fears and joys you carry with you. Observe closely. What is the material used? Does it look difficult? What are the forms and their arrangement; is it literal or abstract?
Naturally, the next question is – why? Why did someone make this? Were they processing a trauma, trying to pay their rent, showing a part of the world no one ever has or will see or just plainly wanted to shock and irritate you?
Giving yourself that space to truly engage with what you are seeing, hearing or reading lets you develop your own unique perception and judgment of the artwork.
Independently of the general public or acclaimed critics, you will have developed a completely personal view of that piece. I will let you decide if you want to go ahead and argue for or against it.
I want to share a recent experience of ‘meeting art’ in a very powerful way.
I visited an exhibition by Cornelia Schleime – a German visual artist born in East Berlin under the GDR – at the Berlinische Galerie in the beginning of 2017. It was one of my most miserable museum visits I can remember. I browsed the exhibition but had to leave fairly quickly because I felt drained and depressed. I hated it and didn’t want to go back.
Soon after this visit, I was at my favourite print magazine/bookstore – ‘Do you read me?’ – and came across a book called “ Berlin studio conversation – Twenty Women Talk About Art”. Obviously, I couldn’t resist this title and purchased it on a whim.
Looking back at it, it might have been more by design than by accident.
On my first reading, I flip the book open at random and to my genuine surprise, the interview I find is with Cornelia Schleime. So, of course, I was curious to see what this person that had irritated me so much with her art had to say in her defence. Reading her story I was quickly humbled. I learned that the emotions I felt were very close to what she had put into those pieces of art. It was the anger, depression and feeling of betrayal she felt after learning that her friends were spying on her on the behalf of the KGB. The feelings of being lost in a new world after she had fled East Germany. All that was there and I got to experience it so clearly through her work.
I still wasn’t particularly fond of it, neither it’s form or that particular museum’s visit. But being able to connect to another person’s worldview this intensely without having even spoken or even read about them before is what thrills me.
It is the ultimate cure for our social bubble
I would make the argument that art is the ultimate way out of our information and social bubble. It enables to view and process what someone believes and sees from a perspective that is not accessible to us. To be free to agree or disagree, change your mind and think it over on your own terms is usually much harder to do in a discussion with a person face to face.
The value of art like many other – dare I say – products is influenced by the context which it exists in
You still might be doubting your own judgment and would want some confirmation from the general public about what is objectively good art. There are some classical guidelines which mostly judge the execution mastered by the artist – quality of composition, rhythm, proportion etc. But this is only part of what goes into assigning a high value to it.
The value of art like many other – dare I say – products is influenced by the context which it exists in. 2015 the Nobel Prize Winner Svetlana Alexievich received the price “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”. Her writing dealt with the suffering imposed by the Soviet Union over of the Belarusian people. And she received this price for her skill but her work as well hit the Zeitgeist. Society was seeing how history could repeat as 2015 was the year when Putin was doing most of his sabre rattling after successfully having had annexed Crimea the year before.
Dare to give it another chance
So now that you have hidden in the corner for a while to read this article maybe it is time to make another circle around that gallery opening and see if you can strike up a conversation first with art then yourself and then that guy who said ‘good vibes’.
PS: An absolute objective truth is that the wine at gallery openings is always bad. No matter how expensive that art.
Books, artist, places I referenced in this post and sources of more insight into the art world I have enjoyed:
Berlinische Galerie https://www.berlinischegalerie.de/en/home/
Do You Read Me!?, Auguststrasse 28, Berlin-Mitte,http://www.doyoureadme.de
The Art Assignmenthttps://www.youtube.com/user/theartassignment
“Berlin Studio Conversations – Twenty Women Talk About Art”, Edited by Stephanie Buhmann, 2017, http://thegreenbox.net/de/buecher/berlin-studio-conversations
“The Practice and Science of Drawing”, Harold Speed, 1917, https://books.google.de/books/about/The_Practice_Science_of_Drawing.html?id=mFoFf35rIpIC&redir_esc=y
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