Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

What you need in an art work is to awaken an emotional response, a blow in the solar plexus, something that moves you. You don’t have to intellectualise : what does it mean?

Rosalie Gascoigne

I agree with Rosalie here - it's about moving people, taking their breath away; stopping them dead in their tracks, making them still for a moment, or bringing a great big smile to their face. Now that's art!

This brings me to my dilemma when viewing art. The labels.  My preferred way of viewing art is to enter into the room or space and be with it. To gaze and seek, and respond. To let it settle over me; or shout back at me depending on the work - but to have that first innocent, raw and uninfluenced look at the work. To experience it fresh and anew; without too many preconceptions.

I no doubt have preconceptions before I arrive - the name of the artist or the show; or the location of the works, each tell us a little bit about what to expect and set the scene somewhat.

I prefer after my initial viewing and experiencing, to then, and only then, turn to whatever has been written about the work and seek to understand what the artist was on about. In part I think this is because I really dislike too much art-speak and often the works is described in flowery or over-the-top ways. I also don't like to be told or preached at, so working my own way through something is my preferred approach.

The other side of me does like to read and think about art, to discover something else I might have missed; or something that adds a new dimension to my reflections and understandings. My official art-training is light-on, so I often do learn something I knew nothing about when I read the descriptors. Hence the dilemma.

I think art is very personal, and not all of us will have the experience that the artist thought they were portraying or expressing; but its good if we have a response. I think good art moves us - it might make us calm or angry or distressed or joyful; but it makes us feel something.

Andy Goldsworthy


  1. Wonderful thoughts this morning! As someone who's college education is in business rather than art, I find myself learning all the time. However, it's the emotion of a piece that draws me in first and keeps me there. Maybe not the artist's intended emotion, but my own response. Absolutely love the photo you included. Goldsworthy is a genius.

  2. This will ring some bells, I'm sure, but I'm also sure that many people will disagree, wanting(needing?) to be told what to expect and how to react.
    My personal feeling is that many viewers would get more enjoyment from a work if they simply looked first and were given an "artist's statement" on leaving.Heck! They might even come back and look again.

  3. Another thoughtful post Fiona. I can definitely understand your point of view.

  4. I'm with you - encounter the work first on its own terms, and then supplement with the text for an expanded appreciation. Oddly, I saw your Goldsworthy image before I saw his name and my first thought was "yes, take this piece for instance, it reminds me of how I first saw and loved Goldsworthy's work before I knew anything about him or what people thought he was all about - and how fresh and moving it all was!" Then I saw it was indeed his work! But I'm glad I let myself not know at first.

  5. How ironic Fiona. I was having this self same discussion with someone yesterday. I think the sentiment is the same whether you are viewing or making art. I can't be done with too much intellectualising of things - I prefer an emotive repsonse every time!

  6. Hi Jennifer - my training is in physiotherapy and there wasn't much art-speak there either! I think the beauty of art is that it can move you - make you feel something. Whether it's what 'they' expected, isn't the point. And I agree, Andy is a bit of a star isn't he?

    Dinah - so very true! I love the idea of making people experience it first, then give them something as they leave. Altho in Melb it did help folk to have us there telling them a bit about the work; I think they enjoyed the insights as well. So my dilemma continues unabated!

    Thanks Jo - perhaps we'll get to test it at your exhibition opening tonight! Looking forward to it.

    Hi G/TT - so glad you had that moment just as you read the post! We are fortunate to have Andy working near us at the moment, building a piece in a national park, so we all trundled out to listen to him a week or so ago. Fabulous!

    Hi Lesley - I'm glad to kno the conversation isn't only in my head! I think you're right about the viewing and the making; like you if I think too much it tightens up an doesn't look real.

  7. I think one of the sad things about artists statements is that most artists don't even want to write them! I guess it's an institutional thing.

    Still, most people aren't highly educated in visual art, and I'd like to see statements where the artist just writes a sentence or two to help the uninitiated viewer, to show them how to find a thread in the work that speaks to them, and to begin to unwind meaning from there.

    There's so much more I could write on this topic - I must get back to that post about statements that I promised months ago!

  8. Hi Amanda, it's a challenge to find the right words that allow people in, and to then find their own way...I definitely think it's possible and definitely helpful. I just hate being told what to think! Hope you get to that post soon, sorry for my tardiness, traveling again and hard to keep track of where I'm at! Go well.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.