Imagine yourself walking into a bustling art gallery, amid a much talked about art exhibition. You walk up the marble staircase, through the eclectic wrought-iron doorway, into a pristine white corridor that leads into the hosting vestibule…Intimidating? Probably not yet!
Just a few feet away, you discover a bespectacled lady, dressed in a semi-bohemian outfit, staring admiringly at a massive, 60x60 inch canvas mounted on the wall. As the colors of the canvas catch your attention, you stroll towards the wall mount to have a closer look. Now comes the catch…Within a few seconds of you examining the illustration, a soft voice asks you, “So…What do you think?”…You turn to find the bespectacled lady you noticed before the work of art, and her question leaves you awkwardly stupefied!
Is this a scenario you often find yourself in or rather dread finding yourself in?
Well, the good news is that you needn’t feel alone, lost or alienated if you often find yourself grappling with a morbid fear of interacting with art intelligentsia. The even better news is that membership to this elite group of intellectuals does not require you to study at an expensive art school or be an art connoisseur.
Unlike other forms of critical interpretation, the world of art critique is a relatively more inclusive and discussion-friendly community. One could attribute it to the nature of the medium, which is itself fluid & open to interpretation. What would be interesting to note for one new to this world is that unlike film critics, rarely will you find an art lover using negative or disparaging linguistics to describe a work of art? In fact, an insider of this colorful universe commented even the term ‘art critic’ is a much looked-down-upon expression, due to the very way it sounds to one at the receiving end. It is considered a rather restrictive & unpolished expression for this eloquent community.
This insight should be the first step in ridding yourself of your fear. The rest is a journey that you need to give yourself both the time & the space to enjoy.
Here are some easy steps to help you through this journey:
1. First & foremost appreciate the artist!
One of the most common & automated reactions people have to a conversation they do not understand is apathy. Try not be one of those folk & miss out on all the intellectual roller-coaster rides you can have at an art exhibition. To quote a blogger Meredith Lepore, “…knowing about art can enrich your life and also your career. Just like being able to talk about sports or news events…”, and it all starts with developing a little respect for the artist. Of course, an artist deserves respect as a human being, but you need to look at him as something of a visionary. Not necessarily someone above yourself, but as someone who dared to look at the world with a different perspective than your own.
Getting to know a different perspective on life is always an enriching experience & giving some amount of credit to the person who shows you this perspective helps your mind open up to some wonderful things that you can learn to appreciate.
2. Allow appreciation to flow from the heart & Instinct
In the initial days of your art appreciation journey, don’t be too tough on yourself by deliberately trying to read up on the history of art. Trust us, the community can always tell when you are trying too hard. You first need to let your appreciation flow in your mind, in the most natural way possible, and don’t worry it will come! Allow yourself to be drawn to a work of art, be it the shapes colors or even the medium (oil, sculpture, photography, silk-screen, mixed media). Spend some time admiring what you love most about it. Let it heal your eyes.
When you start to feel this attraction you will move towards discovering more works of art that speak to you in the same way. After which you will go on to discover artists who often produce works of art that you feel close to. Pretty soon, you will have your own list of favorites & will have names like Jackson Pollock & Monet rolling off the tip of your tongue like Roger Federer & Morgan Freeman!
3. Be a good listener
This goes into two levels- Etiquette & Inspiration. Social etiquette among the world of art aficionados dictates that one must never cut another off while the latter is sharing his thoughts or opinions, no matter how gravely you disagree with him or her. This is primarily because there is no concept of disagreement in the art world. Every opinion is simply a prelude to the next. This concept gives way to layer two – ‘Inspiration’! When you open your mind to accept & articulate every opinion that comes your way, you allow your own mind to open up to wonderful new things that you probably may not have thought of.
Finally, don’t allow rigid opinions to let you develop an apathy to the world of art simply because you don’t think you can ‘Talk Art’. The world of art & art appreciation always has its arms wide open to those with a genuine sense of appreciation for it & you too can be one of them by simply letting your heart & mind run free…And trust us, they both want to!
To have a conversation with art, you must first allow art to talk to you.