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01 Why look at art?

Tralee bay sunset painting by SJE

(Unedited draft)

The painting above was made in about ten minutes at the end of an evening class about acrylic paints. The main painting from that evening has long gone from memory but this +”quickie” remains. Two reasons – I quite like it and so did someone else as it sold very quickly.

But what is it that makes me nad others come back to look at this fairly simple scene on a regular basis? At its simplest I suppose the shape af things and the way they’re laid out should be having an effect. Getting important elements in spaecific places on the canvas using golden ratios and Fibonacci numbers is reasonably foolproof, although there has to be something attractive to be viewed at these spots.

And with this painting even that is questionable. As the artist I wanted to add more to “complete” the scene but was discouraged by my tutor, who was of course quite correct.

So there has to be something there. Perhaps we like the painting because it tells us a story. Or maybe the opposite – the lack of an integral story let’s us make up our own. Or maybe it’s different every time. It’s certainly different for exch viewer.

Can a photograph not do this for us? I would suggest not. It hard wired into our brains that a photograph is some sort of record, saved to inform us and even after mainipulation in Photoshop etc is unlikely to fool us into thinking up a new interpretation every time we look at it.

its easy to sit here and talk about a scene such as that above with just about anyone but it’s another matter when we’re looking at portraits or so-called abstract art. I wonder if there are figures showing the amount of time viewers look at particular pictures in galleries? I’ll have to have a look up and see what I can fine then return here and I add the details to this paragrap(.

Now the next question is colour or monochrome? A mono photo leaves little to the imagination whereas I think a mono ¡painting can be interpreted in many ways. Some artists may feel they are helping us by producing a series of monos in different hues and tones but really thety are limiting what we feel by effectively saying these are the choices, you pick the one you like. It’s a bit like buying a ready-meal and heating it as opposed to starting with fresh ingredients and preparing everything yourself. It’s possible the end products will look the same but it’s unlikely they’ll taste the same or have equal nutritional value.

So here’s a new concept. The nutritional value,use of a painting. What nutritional value doe the Mona Lisa have? I don’t know. It’s such a familiar painting that I wonder what difference it makes to see the painting for real at the Louvré as opposed to on a screen as most us will most often have seen it? Nutrition for the brain. It’s been suggested (and refuted) that we should keep exercising the brain by doing crosswords and suchlike to stave off the effects of dementia as we age. Perhaps looking at paintings in galleries would help. Though it may be that the physical exercise = getting to the gallery and climbing all the stairs – was what provided the greater good. One could easily spend say two or three minutes in front of a dozen paintings, make some notes on content and techniques the artist used. Then a sit down and perusal of the notes would suggest which painting you’d like to own a print fro:m. Then when looking at the print you’d be reminded of the gallery visit, the thoughts you had or the notes made and any story the picture told or inspired. There may be a bonus as you’d probably remember other paintings from the visit and be encouraged to make a return trip.