Bleak Midwinter?

Art-High founder, Suzanna Gregg, considers the value of empty space.

Christmas decorations are not the most beautiful or subtle way to brighten up our homes and streets, yet I must confess to missing them when they are gone. Their colours and lights add a warmth and brightness to the start of winter. When Christmas has been put away my home momentarily looks rather bare, like the trees outside. Soon however, there is pleasure to be found in that space.

January and February may be considered the bleakest months of the year, especially since they follow the warm glow of Christmas. Yet for me they provide a wonderful sense of space – mental, emotional, even spiritual – as well as physical. The dark, wintery beginning of the year brings opportunity for a fresh start – a time to think, to take stock, to plan, and to make changes.

I am not talking about New Year resolutions here, making radical changes on January 1st which are often forgotten before the month has ended. This beautiful space is for contemplation. Whether we are thinking about ourselves, our families and friends, our homes or our jobs, what has been achieved in the last year? More specifically, what is going well and what needs work; what needs to be added to or removed from our lives? These might range from something really deep and personal to simply mending a dripping tap, but all should improve the quality of our lives.

What does all this have to do with art? Call it the art of living well!



Does Christmas Make Us All Curators?

Art High founder Suzanna Gregg asks whether the skills of the curator might be applied to Christmas.

santa claus plush toy

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

 

Who do you imagine a curator to be? A stuffy old fellow in a museum, more interested in his paintings than in the people who come to view them? Actually one role of the curator is to select art works, choosing those which support the narrative – the story – of a specific exhibition. Outside of the art world the curator has been defined as gathering something, organizing it, and making it available to the public. We will return to the curator in a moment.

Now Let’s think about Christmas. Go into any shopping centre on Saturday afternoon and you will find hoards of shoppers preparing for Christmas, seeking out their perfect decorations, table settings, cards and gifts. What exactly are they looking for; what are they trying to achieve? Are they simply getting the job done as quickly and easily as they can? In some cases, yes, however others are carefully selecting items which contribute to the atmosphere and story of their own personal Christmas. In other words they are curating.

Does Christmas make us all curators? We each have our own image of Christmas. Our view of the season – what it means, what it looks, sounds, smells and tastes like – determines the kind of Christmas we create, or curate. Even those of us who just do what needs doing as quickly and efficiently as possible are gathering, organising and displaying, with perhaps a more eclectic result.

Accepting that Christmas does make us all curators, what kind of Christmas do you curate? Traditionally warm and cosy? Cool and minimalist? Randomly eclectic? Send us your photos and share your curating skills with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art is good for you: discuss (part 1)

Art High founder, Suzanna Gregg, considers the value of art to the individual.

N.B. No pictures here: I have resisted including images of my favourite paintings, not wishing to force my own taste in art onto you.

Art is good for you. That is a bold statement. What do you think, or perhaps I should ask, how do you feel, because for me art is all about feeling. Whether I am viewing or creating art, it is the feeling rather than the thought that is powerful. How does this work? Read on.

I do not claim to be an expert in the field of fine art, but I do know what I like and why I like it. I enjoy art that calls to me when I walk into a room – the colours, the form, the story. At closer inspection I find pleasure in both the paint and its narrative. A combination of colours can lift my mood, energise, bring a sense of security or peace, excitement or fun. The story I read in a painting may not be that intended by the artist, or understood by the expert, but it is meaningful and relevant to me.

As an individual I look at art through my own life-experiences, and sometimes art responds, engaging my emotions and drawing me in. When this happens I know it is time to stop and gaze, to lose myself in the painting for a while; everyday life is laid aside as I focus. In a nutshell I guess you could say this is a ‘gut’ response, intuitive rather than intellectual, but whatever we call it, this does me good. I always come away from such an encounter, at the very least, refreshed and uplifted.  That is the benefit of art for me.

We may all enjoy art this way. Each of us has a unique background story and taste, making different artworks attractive for different reasons. If we only take the time to look, every one of us might engage with, and take pleasure in, the art that speaks to us, whatever that might be.

Meaning in Art

Founder of Art High, Suzanna Gregg, considers one way to find meaning in art.

I have recently been appreciating road signs. I know; what do they have to do with art and meaning? Please be patient with me, we will get to the point soon enough. The road signs are relevant here.

 

 

British road signs were designed back in the 1960s to assist safe driving on our increasingly busy roads. Road signs are, by necessity, simple and easy to read. They are also, in my opinion, pleasing to the eye, with their simple shapes and limited colour palette. Created by an artist, these familiar designs achieve their purpose of communicating with drivers.

Now we come to art and meaning (I told you we would get their soon). Like road signs, art communicates with the viewer; it means something. The difficulty for us lies in discovering these meanings.  Here is where art and signs part company; unlike the road signs, art does not often give up its meaning readily.

Let us consider a question at this point; who decides what any work of art means? The artist must surely know, or is it art historians who provide the answers? Dare I suggest that we are able, if we choose, to find meaning for ourselves?

Perhaps for many of us, a lack of knowledge or understanding of how to read art, of how to find meaning, dissuades us from visiting a gallery. In fact this is an ideal condition in which to look at art. The old saying is true, ignorance IS bliss. With no knowledge of the official, established meaning of a painting, we have the wonderful opportunity to understand it our own way.

It may seem ridiculous to believe that we should boldly ignore the artists, experts and academics, to find our own way, but read on before you discount the idea.  We each have an upbringing, and many life experiences, which create a filter through which we see the world. These filters cause each of us to understand life differently from one another. These same filters must also, surely, determine how we view a work of art. When I look at a painting there is no right or wrong, only what I see and what it means to me.

Is this a ridiculous theory? Before you decide, try it. Go to a gallery, find art that attracts you, and take time to look at it; I mean really look, not just a passing glance. Then come back and let us know whether or not you believe that we can find our own meaning in art.

 

 

Make Yourself At Home

Suzanna Gregg, founder of Art High, explores the variety of art found in the home.

 

burst

We may not believe we have much art in our homes, if any, yet a brief look around will quickly prove otherwise. Think beyond what hangs on the walls, to the objects we use everyday and the décor of the rooms we live in.

 

mug

 

Look in the kitchen for example, at the crockery we use everyday. The design – shape, colour, pattern – make a cup beautiful as well as useful.  Do you have a favourite mug? Think about why you like it. Whether you enjoy how it looks, or how it feels in your hands, you are appreciating the art and design applied in its making.

 

floor

 

Consider the décor of your home, the walls, floors and soft furnishing. Did you carefully select a combination of colours and patterns which blend well together? In doing so you have actually curated a display to suit your personal taste, creating your own private exhibition.

Are you persuaded? Whether art hangs on the walls or sits in the kitchen cupboard, it is there, present in every home.