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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Look?

Suzanna Gregg, Art High founder, considers different approaches to exploring new places.

New York 2012

Tourist or flaneur; which one are you? (A flanuer, in this context, is one who strolls and looks around them, drinking in their surroundings, with no specific agenda.)

Before we go any further I feel I should identify myself. As a tourist who religiously sought out the top ten attractions wherever I went, I struggled to relax and wander. Following a visit to Granada when my travelling companion took charge of the itinerary, in addition to visiting significant sites, I experienced the delights of the flaneur. I was converted! I make no apology if the following is therefore a little biased.

When visiting a new place the tourist first establishes the sights that must be seen, then purposefully explores them. Alternately the flaneur makes little or no effort to seek out the ‘must-see’, instead simply wandering around the place to see what he can see. Both approaches are worthwhile, yet both additionally present risks.

The tourist chooses those sites which are commonly recognized as significant, for whatever reason, to visit. In so doing she may see and learn much to increase her  understanding of this new place. The flaneur meanwhile, wandering with no particular purpose other than strolling and looking, is free to enjoy the atmosphere and to come upon unexpected delights. While the flaneur risks missing the most significant attractions, the tourist may fail to experience the life, the heart of the place.

Alhambra from below

On a visit to Granada, Spain, for example, the tourist will visit the Alhambra, the cathedral, and maybe a flamenco show, while the flaneur encounters a gypsy, a flamenco guitarist playing in the open air, and the plaza where an orchestra plays and local people dance in their lunch hour. The tourist looks at the story of the city while the flaneur sees it in the here-and-now. Which experience of Granada would you choose, or indeed do we need to choose?

View through window

There are individuals who, due to personality or purpose, choose persistently either tourist or flaneur. For the majority of us however, the two approaches might easily be combined if we are prepared to try something new. Tourists,  yes of course visit those significant sites, while allowing time also to stroll and to drink in your surroundings. Flaneurs, do a little research and choose a significant site to explore in the midst of your wanderings. Whether tourist or flaneur,  by embracing one another’s approach, our experience of any new place may be deeply enriched.

We would love to hear from you, to find out how many tourists and flaneurs are out there, and whether a change in approach has changed the way you look at and experience new places. Leave a comment here, or email us at suzanna@art-high.org, thank you.

Do Look Down

For the first in a series challenging us to open our eyes and explore our surroundings, Art High founder, Suzanna Gregg, discovers the great beauty to be found in the ground we walk on.

 

waiting

 

They say that in Paris one should always look down in order to avoid the dog mess scattering the pavements. I believe that in Paris or anywhere else, looking down presents benefits far surpassing the avoidance of mess on your shoe.

 

A stroll around the city of Funchal, Madeira, presents a variety of pavements which cannot fail to attract the eye, almost commanding a look down. Great attention has been given to create  a variety of patterns which add interest to a walk through this beautiful city. It is, however, often the ordinary and the familiar, wherever we are, which offer ground worthy of notice. There is form, colour and texture to be found on any road or pathway, in town or country, if it is sought out.

It is easy to take our surroundings for granted, to grow so familiar with them that we fail to notice anything worthy of a second glance. There is form, colour and texture, whatever your taste, to be found on any road or pathway, in town or country, if it is sought out. When was the last time you took pleasure in the pavement on your street, or even noticed it?

 

 

When was the last time you took pleasure in the pavement on your street, or even noticed it? Next time you go for a walk, whether in a new city or in your own locality, keep your eyes down and really look at the ground under your feet; you may be pleasantly surprised by the view.