‘One picture paints a thousand words’, is the saying, but then it all starts with a word. Sorry, the Word, as said in: ’In the beginning was the Word.’ (John 1-1). Without a word, purpose is not directed. How true this is – there is no other place I can think of where image and word are so interconnected as in art. Surely we can appreciate the imagery of visual art, but without words our curiosity remains mostly unsatisfied.
When an artwork ‘speaks’ to you and your imagination, it will trigger you to ask questions. To comprehend these questions, we need words to voice them, to enter into a dialogue, to open up the discourse and to get some answers. Vocalizing is one thing, writing about art is a trait in its own. If we try to talk about what we see, how it affects us, how it is perceived and what it means, we soon arrive at the thought that language simply is not enough. We feel as if what really moves us cannot easily be reduced to simple speech. Then how should we write about art in a way that conveys this affecting or lasting experience, in a way that feels meaningful? Besides solely writing about your own experiences and feelings – which can be seen as rather posh – the writer should also create a context in which knowledgeable information is transferred. This raises more questions though, and not only about the how but also about the what, where, who, when and why.
The first ‘why’, why to write about art, is answered above – to give meaning and to share knowledgeable information. Still, the need to write about visual art needs to be demystified. That is exactly why SEA Foundation wants to address this in the course ‘Writing about art‘.
While talking about art is already important to get a better understanding of it – Art is a conversation – writing about art addresses even more important aspects. It is an evaluation of a work of art, about how you perceive it, which questions or topics it addresses and probably – or rather hopefully – about your personal opinion of the artwork itself. By putting these questions and answers into words, you will not only make up your mind, you also make it transferable and shareable. Others can read it, take notice of your opinion, ideas, vision, feelings, get ignited, share your thoughts and views, like or dislike it. Your writing can, in the next stage, trigger others to form their own opinions.
To write about art is important because it creates a wider reach. It puts attention to how art interacts with its viewers and how it is perceived and appreciated. Relatively speaking, we are only able to experience a few things for ourselves. For everything else, we have to trust the words of others. There is a discourse about the validity of real experience over written ones, but then a well written report of the experienced event, can ignite you and give a transfer of urgency and importance. It can even make your feel like you were part of it.
While it is true that artistic taste is relative, there are valid methods to asses certain characteristics of an artwork. This way artworks can be assessed as a means of measuring the artist’s success at conveying the intended message or meaning of the work in question. It will also give you information about the artist, his or her background, motives and the production process. Do not let us forget that this gives us the means to relate to the art and the artist, as well as to provide the artist with feedback on his endeavours. It even gives us the chance to put the art into a context and a wider perspective.
To address these aspects and how to handle them, we have compiled an e-course, ‘Writing about Art’. In 5 lessons you are provided with a solid framework on how to improve your art writing.
All of our activities are supported by the voluntary efforts of motivated team members. That is why we rely on the support of a diverse range of public and private sector partners who are vital to the success of our efforts.
Are you an art writer/critic and do you want to contribute to SEA Foundation by sharing your knowledge? Or do you want to enroll in one of our programs, write a guest-blog or support us financially? Do contact us and team-up!