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Appreciate and Interpret Art

Appreciate and Interpret Art

Humans have created art since the very beginning of our existence on earth. As we have grown and developed over the years, our art has developed and grown with us. Today, we can find art almost everywhere. In public spaces, private homes, art museums and galleries, among other places. If you are interested in art, but are not sure what to look for, or are looking to enhance your experience observing art in galleries or museums, consider these suggestions:

1 Observe the medium, or the mode of expression the artist chose to use; Is it a painting, drawing, sculpture, a still photograph, or an architectural structure, Is it two-dimensional or three-dimensional? Or is this work a non-traditional artwork, such as mixed medium, graphic arts or ephemeral arts? Ephemeral arts are usually modern art works such as performance art, video art, earthworks, cinema and computer art. Non-traditional artwork is sometimes made of such materials as ceramic, glass, textile, stitching, metalwork, enamel, or junk materials.

2 Consider the content of the art work presented: Content can be subject matter, ideas, and the social-political-economical stance the artist is trying to represent. Ask yourself, what is the subject matter the artist has chosen to convey?

3 Ask questions: What style is the artist using in this work, to convey his or her ideas or subject matter? A representational style is one where the artist’s ideas and subject matter is completely recognisable. The non-representational style is where the subject matter is not always clearly represented. Artists can use clear lines as a primary means of definition, called the linear style, or they can use shadows, modelling, and shading, to produce a painting style. Is the artwork realistic, naturalistic, or idealised: Realism focuses on showing objects as they really are, while naturalism focuses on the presentation of the object as it is in nature. Idealism shows the object in a state of perfection, while expressionism seeks to exaggerate the object’s form. Abstraction, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of realism, naturalism, and idealism, in that it often does not depict the actual object, instead choosing to extract the essence of that object and show it in another manner.

4 Think about form: What artistic form does the artist use in this work? Form usually focuses on line, colour, texture, spatial qualities, and composition. The line is usually drawn or painted, and is used to define the shape or shapes of the piece. Colour can be categorised by hue, value and intensity; Hue is what we know of as primary and secondary colours. The value of the colour is the degree of light and dark used, within the art work, whereas the intensity is the degree of dullness or brightness of colour used. Texture is how the art work would feel, if you could touch it; This can be actual or implied. i.e. Does this piece of work appear smooth, polished, satiny, rough, oily, or coarse?

5 Think about how the artist composed this work: How did the artist create, arrange and organise the space, to make the work appear flat, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional? Pictures usually contain three zones: foreground, background and middle ground; How do all of these features work together and what effect does it create?

6 Consider the period the art work comes from: Period and style are not the same in the art world, as the period speaks to a specific historical era of the art. Ask what period the art work is from: Is there a specific historical era, or artistic movement, this work comes from, and if it is a modern piece, does it recall another era or artistic movement of the past, or there again, is it part of a new movement in art?

Read ahead about an exhibit or the artist being featured, to get a sense of what to expect. Read about artist movements throughout history. Learn the difference between the abstract, pop art, and expressionist movements. Do a little research online or at a museum.
Take your time while visiting an exhibit at a museum or gallery; Soak in as much as you can. You may not be able to focus on as much of the artwork as you would like; Instead, get a broad sense of the exhibition first, and then zero in on a few select pieces that catch your eye.
You may have to return to the same exhibition or gallery more than once, to really experience and take in all of the art work in an in-depth manner.

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