Sunday, June 2, 2019

Ways to look at art

The new season at the Old School House Gallery on Cortes Island will open this June 14th, and I recently gave a presentation about ways to look at art, in anticipation of an exciting summer of six exhibitions.  Here are some of the ways we looked at art.

The Blue Gate, Helen Rogak, oil 

See what is before you--
not what you think you see
or want to see.

It is easy to dismiss a work when I say, "I've seen floral paintings in oil before; this repeats what has already been said.  

And yet there is more here than I know.  The artist is presenting a barrier--a blue gate--and pointing at it with the title.  And the blue gate is not open. Will I take a risk going through it?  What kind of risk is the artist taking by creating a space into which the viewer cannot enter?

Every artist is saying something, and yet the viewer activates the thing perceived. The artist controls the image but not the reaction to it.  In my view, the content of this painting is also about what is wild and what is cultivated, and whether or not I can reach the one from the other.  

Moment Alone, Carolyn Evridge, Watercolour

Masterful technique 
protects the content,
or meaning of the work. 

The media used is the art work's first identity, and the artist's technique carries that meaning in the vocabulary of sight: such as composition, harmony, proportion, light, colour, line, texture.  In this way, the work is a conversation between the artist and her materials, and not a monologue.  

The watercolour technique here speaks to a sense of mystery, of spaces that are both actual and uncertain.  Of forms that shift their reality between the elements.

And yet part of this conversation is also between the emotional meaning of the work and the environment given it by the choice of framing.  If physical presence is a power, and it is, what power has the oval shape been given in relation to the image?

Eastbourne, Elizabeth Greenwood and Violet
Artist Unknown
Photograph on milk glass, 1894

All visual art is a form of 
abstraction and interpretation,
and is therefore political.

The choices the artist makes describe the world that the artist promotes.  How can we look at art when we no longer see, or do not want to see,  the world it is promoting?

Salish Sea #66, David Ellingsen, Photograph
plus reflection of viewer

Scale is critical--the body reads art
as metaphoric space, as actual space.

When my human scale is confronted with a scale of space which my body cannot relate to, and yet my mind accepts because of the notion that photography is "real," I experience tension.  This tension echoes in the subject matter, in the stark contrast, and in their dramatic presentation.  

My heightened awareness, as a viewer,  is a consequence of learning to see.  

Enjoy taking these ways to look at art into the gallery this summer as you enjoy the 2019 season:

June 14 - 23
Laura Balducci

June 28 - July 7
Iris Steigemann

July 12 - 21
Gem Salsberg
Risa Salsberg
Glenna Foerster

July 26 - August 4
Hannah Petkau
Francesca Belcourt

August 9 - 18
Annie Belcourt

August 23 - Sept 1
Amy Robertson
Lisa Gibbons
Monika Beal
Donna Naven