How NOT to go ‘Yeah Whatever’, at the India Art Fair. Simple ways to evaluate what you see.

 

Fountain is a 1917 work by Marcel Duchamp

Fountain is a 1917 work by Marcel Duchamp

The India Art Fair is one at the NSIC grounds from 30th to 2nd February, which means, if you’re a working person you only have the rest of today and tomorrow to catch it.

Here are a few simple ways of evaluating some of the stuff you see, so that you walk out feeling enriched and uplifted and emboldened and a little dizzy, instead of thinking ‘Er…nice. But this art stuff is not for me.’

I understand the intimidation people feel at the sight of outrageous sculptures and abstract art. Even though I loved some of the stuff I saw when I was in school, I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe to myself why I thought it was cool. I used feel the need for some sort of formal initiation, before I ‘really got it‘.

That formal initiation happened at art school, and I realized that great art was doing itself an injustice cowering in galleries, making people feel foolish for walking in without invitations.

Art is for everybody, to be interpreted in any way they want, and therein lies the great thing about Art Fairs. It opens Art up, and gives people access.

So go, and behold, and be enriched.

There’s no ONE way feel about a piece of art. The more it leaves suggested, but not said, the better. You are as much of an artist in interpreting the work.

So here’s the broad and simple initiation I wish someone had given me.

On Sculpture

It doesn’t need to be Michelangelo’s David. Anything that takes up space in any form can be called a sculpture. Look beyond recognizable shapes. Look for juxtapositions of objects, or of materials and what they imply.

Totally hypothetically speaking, a tea set, a symbol of ritual and order, all smashed up on a tray, could be an artists way of demonstrating rebellion.

Or Duchamp’s urinal (the fountain, he called it (above)) , a functional object, simply by being positioned in a gallery as an object of contemplation, makes us look at it differently. Duchamp himself said he wanted to  ‘shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation.’

On installation

Installation art may have some linkages to sculpture but its normally concerned with ‘making a scene’ that communicates something. It could be site specific or the ‘scene’ can be set up in different places.

We did an installation in college in which a pair of headphones were suspended from the ceiling of a room in a really old house. When people put on the headphones they could hear recreated sounds reminiscent of the past. For instance, we included a sound clip of sparrows chirping, because sparrows had long abandoned the grounds of the old house.

Look for what its trying to say. Any meaning you take from it is valid.

On Painting

The visual arts are probably easiest to have a reaction to, because we are in the habit of contemplating beauty. Move away from simplistic definitions of beauty and try and get your head involved. Why the choice of colours? Why the elongated forms?

An artist is often trying to say a lot in the most simple way possible, hence the simplification and abstraction.

Sitting Woman by Picasso

Sitting Woman by Picasso

Time and context of the painting are also important to know. For instance, the cubists made paintings showing multiple perspectives partly because they were trying to depict time in a single frame, competing with the nascent medium of film. The cubist style of painting has its roots in context.

A painting/photograph of white noise, may not be a beautiful painting, but could be saying something about the TV culture we live in.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of different mediums out there. Video art, performance art, photography, and various forms of new media. I’ve only focused on three to keep the post short.

Just keep an open mind and walking through the stalls of the Art Fair will be like reading a vivid book, with humour, poignancy, austerity and other emotions thrown in for good measure.

Art is NOT meant to be esoteric, it’s meant to be personal. For you.

 

Picasso painting from Alaskan Dude on Flickr using Attribution 2.0 Generic license 

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One thought on “How NOT to go ‘Yeah Whatever’, at the India Art Fair. Simple ways to evaluate what you see.

  1. Pingback: It’s Pop, but it’s Metal – 3 things I learnt at the India Art Fair | virajrohancircar

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