On the Many Ways of Looking at Art

I’ve been thinking a lot about the art world recently, maybe even more than about the art itself. When I go to art galleries or to art museums I have started to look at the way the works are placed within the space and what kind of atmosphere they create and what makes that possible; is it the colours that are used, if we are talking about paintings; or the shape, if we are talking about sculptures; or the sounds and lights if we are talking about an installation which has much more power in itself to create a certain atmosphere and to tell the viewer what it is about since it can use sounds, colours, shapes and lights in contrast to a painting that needs to “talk about itself” or explain itself in a two-dimensional space with colours and forms. A great work of art is considered by many, to be able to stand on its own, without any explanatory text, not even a title, which in some cases can tell you everything about it. 

 Arna Óttarsdóttir exhibition at   i8 Art Gallery, Reykjavík, Iceland    –  05 Nov. 2015 – 09 Jan. 2016.

Arna Óttarsdóttir exhibition at i8 Art Gallery, Reykjavík, Iceland  05 Nov. 2015 – 09 Jan. 2016.

When viewing art, there are so many ways in which we can look. We live at a time where the visual world is our main source of information which has its’ advantages and disadvantages. One of the main advantage is that information is reachable and easy to find, we have the internet with all its’ imagery which leads to less actual reading, be it the information accompanying the image or a book for example. 

All these thoughts on art and the visual world have captured me recently before I was more captivated by what the work of art had to say about the artist and the time in history when it was created, which is one of the main reasons for which I started learning Art Theory. Part of my new fascination may be my rather recent realisation that a very large part of the art world is financial. I had a very naive view and truly believed that art is always about art itself, however now I see the big picture and understand that sometimes the art world needs to function in this way. I find myself drawn to art movements like Arte Povera, that was in many ways a middle finger to the art market that sometimes seems to forget the words of Gautier; l'art pour l’art. However Gautier was a Romanticist which is a very beautiful art movement and ideology, my favourite in art history to be honest, but doesn’t always function in the actual world. 

Realising that the art world is so complex has only made more interested in it and learning more only makes me want to know more. From art we can learn about the past, the present and if you look very closely sometimes even speculate about the future. Kandinsky said that the artists should be the force that brings on change, embetterment. He said that society forms a type of pyramid that moves through space at a very slow pace, sometimes it can move faster, sometimes slower. At the front are the few that draw the pyramid forward and that is where the artist should be. Now, that is debatable, of course, but what is not is the information that art gives us about the point in time when it was made.  Here is then yet another way of looking at art / contemporary art; as a documentation on current events and ideologies; as a tool to understand our own time. 

By Adelina  Art Walk Reykjavik