Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art

Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art

Ossian Ward

On just completing my reading of Ways of Looking I now feel more equipped with a template to more fully experience contemporary art, to really look to analyse what’s there….

What was particularly helpful was the Tabula Rasa attitude… to wipe the slate clean to see afresh…to unburden any prior prejudice to enable me to embrace what’s in front of me from the perspective of a blank slate.

The template for comprehending what’s there was structured around…

TIME-To give every piece the benefit of the doubt, to respect the work sufficiently well to attribute a minimum of two minutes to encompass meaning.

ASSOCIATION-To seek some form of personal response/reaction to the piece of contemporary art…how does it resonant with me, my experiencing?

BACKGROUND– To research the artist, to search for the underlying narrative…the story being told to help contextualise and give substance to my understanding of the work itself.

UNDERSTANDING– To look at all the relevant markers, triggers, clues to see what’s really there on show.

LOOK AGAIN– One glance is not enough, to look again to see and interpret the detail to aid an overall understanding based upon the present moment.

ASSESSMENT– From wiping the slate clean there is an opportunity to enter into a journey of discovery, to fully engage to form some response and relationship with the contemporary art piece.

The Walthamstow Tapestry (2009) 300x1500m (Wool/Cotton) Grayson Perry

Although this tapestry was not seen in the flesh, I adopted the same template to allow me to see this contemporary art from the imagery available on the internet. I afforded myself sufficient time to fully generate an emotional response with what I was looking at through looking again. The colour, texture, pattern and overall complex detailing and imagery naturally hooked me in for some time as a fan of contemporary tapestry and Grayson Perry. There were so many different colour yarns used and combined to weave the tapestry.

From understanding the artist’s background, I could relate with the significance of his political underpinnings throughout the tapestry. The tapestry focused upon his dislike of consumerism and the effects of advertising including brand names on people’s lives. There was a satirical look at beautiful objects and the need to spend to have, of the constant pressure to have the next best thing whether you need it or not. The tapestry was full of wit including imagery of a woman clutching her Gucci bag as if it was a baby. Perry recorded everyday life from birth to death via the shops and consumerism… woven between the big brands.

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