So lockdown has lifted and art galleries are open again. Maybe you’ve been invited to the latest exhibition at Tate Modern, or perhaps you just fancy getting out and immersing yourself in art. However, it’s been a long time and you want to make the most of the experience.
That’s where I can help. Navigating galleries, looking at art and appreciating everything artists are trying to convey is what I do.
Follow my top tips for getting back into the gallery and you can’t go wrong.
This might seem obvious but, arguably, can be the most important. Connect with art! Whether you are at the Tate looking at a Turner or at the Tate Modern looking at a Marlow Moss; whether you are looking at a sculpture, or you are experiencing some performance. Silence. Your. Mind. And connect!
Without this connection it’s harder to move to the next level of art appreciation. A side note on this: you can also connect with art that you truly do not like. The harder pieces to connect with are the ones that do not move any emotional response.
A good strategy is to find and specifically target those pieces that you can build some connection with. If you are in a big building with many floors to explore, don’t feel you have to see it all. Ask for a map of the place and select what interests you the most. And again, once you find the corner of the building that speaks to you, it does not mean that all the pieces in that space will build some rapport with you. Knowing this might help you to manage your own expectations of the experience.
If possible, do some research on what you will be seeing. It can be as short as 10 minutes on the internet researching the artist or the art gallery you will be visiting. If you are looking to immerse yourself in the experience, the more you know the more you will enjoy the piece.
A good place to start is the gallery or museum webpage. If you want to know more try searching for the artist webpage or some general information about them if they don’t have a webpage.
A great idea is to also look up some general information about their art – is the artist an impressionist, a cubist, a surrealist? Locate this information and read up some general information about which movement they are part of.
This brings me to the next point, your experience with that piece will be highly influenced by your surroundings. Is the gallery very busy? Is there a lot of noise around you?
This is not something necessarily detrimental. A busy gallery or some dazzling noise will bring about a different way of connecting with art. Some art is best experienced when there is a crowd - I find this to be more applicable for contemporary art.
Either way, know yourself and how you react to noise and silence, busy environments, levels of noise, etc. This will help you in your overall experience.
One more thing about art and its relationship with you, your body, and your senses: you do not need to stand still while looking at art. Take a step closer, take a step backwards, move to the left, move to the right. This means, change your perspective! You will often find aspects of that piece of art that you have not seen or considered before.
But what about the meaning of the piece? Often people wonder what does the art they are appreciating mean?
A complex question, indeed. Some art is deeply political, like the work of Banksy or Marina Abramovich, and some art seems to be absolutely detached from politics - we have all seen a painting depicting food on top of a table!
Though, arguably, there are no apolitical works of art. In any case, the first thing I will ask is, what does it mean to you? What feelings and thoughts does it provoke?
In art history we often say that regardless of the artist intention, the piece we are analysing results in this or that cognitive and emotional experience. Your cognitive and emotional experience is as valid as the artist intention. In fact, perhaps even more important, as at the end of the day the influential power of art is what we take home.
And make sure you enjoy it!
Doctoral student, University of Essex
Solange is an architectural and art historian. Her research focuses on council-built post-war modern architecture and her thesis explores the social impact of temporary prefabricated houses in the UK. She's also interested in humanist and anti-humanist theories, architectural phenomenology, and feminist theory and practice. She holds a University of Essex Humanities Doctoral Scholarship and is a member of The Brilliant Club, teaching secondary school pupils about her research.
08 December 2020
Categories: Essex Daily