Saturday, July 4, 2015

Viewing art

Most of the people I know personally are my non-art friends. They are categorised as "non-art" because they didn't receive any formal art training. But of course, this could lead to a conversation if one is to say that everyone is an artist. They could take an interest in art because they treat art like a hobby or something to do to past time or simply because they knew me. Whenever we visit the museums/art exhibitions, they would ask for my interpretation or the intention of the work. But, who can acclaim a know-it-all, sometimes I don't even know the artist's existence prior to the visit. 

Shahn (1949) wrote that "art is the creation of human value". In viewing art, we can ground our understanding by discerning its diverse contextual qualities besides the formal and thematic qualities. It's essential to understand that artists consider three areas that contribute to the integrity of a work of art. Though I won't speak for all artists and obviously art making may not be a linear process. These considerations will help viewers to create/ respond to art that is authentic, deep and meaningful. It's also a tool to get closer to understanding art and making connections to life.

Sandell (2006) revealed the following equation: Art = Form + Theme + Context(s). Form is about how the work is. Perhaps all art students would receive education about the formal approach such as the art elements and principles of design. When we examine theme,it's what the work is about. The artist address the big/ enduring idea. Along with the relationships that reveal the artist's perspective connecting art to life. Finally, when we investigate context(s),we look at when, where, by/ for whom and why the art was created and valued. Most probably, there's a significance and relevance to society and the viewers. 

Most of the time, art work speaks more than what is presented in the synopsis hung beside it or the collateral that accompanies it. Works in an exhibition setting may be presented out-of-context. With contextual information, viewers can perceive the intention and purpose of an artwork by identifying person, social, cultural, historical, artistic, educational, political, spiritual and other contexts that influence the creation and understanding of the work. Thus, it's important that viewers read or research more about the artist/ artwork that is presented to them because they may lack the contextual, cultural or historical knowledge that is generally required before the subject and content of images can be grasped. 

It can be frustrating when artists are unwilling to explain further about their work. Sometimes for a reason. For example, Australian aboriginal artists have refused to disclose the meaning of all their symbols to outsiders in order to preserve some of their tribal cultural secret. Nonetheless, there are artists who may choose not to reveal more of their work for some reasons. 

Sandell, R. (2006, January). Form+Theme+Context: Balancing considerations for meaningful art learning. Art Education, 59(1), 33-37. 

Shahn, B. (1949, November). Ben Shahn. Magazine of Art 42.

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