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Coming to Grips with Art (or Art for the Newby)

One of the best ways of thinking about (visual) art, is to compare it to music. Music is varied in its expression, it ranges from whistling a tune to a great opera, from pop songs to piano concertos. You might not like punk rock,but you might like jazz or reggae. So, when you struggle to understand an artwork, think of it like music. Ask yourself if the artwork you are looking at is a gentle love song or is it a loud symphony orchestra playing or is this just someone humming a tune.


There are so many types of art; political art, sentimental art, gruesome art, playful art, in fact if you can imagine it you will find it. You will find art about every topic under the sun. You will also find art in every conceivable medium, in every size and shape and in every type of expression. You cannot dislike it all. Again it's like music, you can't say you dislike all music, or don't understand music, or it's not for you.


I know this sounds simple but think about it, art is not threatening in itself, it is just a piece of paper or some paint on a canvas, or paper with charcoal on it, or a sculpture made out of stone or bronze. What is threatening is that we feel we don't understand what it's supposed to mean, or that we don't belong to the arty crowd. The elitism can put us off, but this is ironic as artists often struggle financially and do it despite their struggles, they also often live in marginalised communities.


When you see these crazy,massive prices paid for certain artworks it is worth noting that the artworks at that level are often bought for the purposes of tax evasion and money laundering and so on. This is a very far world away from most artists' reality who make ordinary art for ordinary people at affordable prices.


Artists make art for you, and for people like you. Go to art museums when they open again. Go to art galleries and exhibitions. Find out what you like. Look at art. Go with an open mind. Don’t stay long, don't exhaust yourself. Looking at art is tiring. Stay for a half an hour and pick something that you like.. Here is a nice game: Pretend you are an experienced art collector and you have been tasked with purchasing an artwork for your office or for the city hall. As you walk in the gallery or museum, have fun ‘selecting’ an artwork. You have to choose one, then ask yourself why you like it.


When you are at a gallery or museum, ask the people at the front desk, curator or gallery owner what the art is about. If the artist is present,even better, ask them about their work. They would be delighted that someone is interested enough to ask.


The more you look at art, the more you know what you like. It is like wine, the more you drink good wine, the more you can distinguish what good wine is. Simple exposure to art will soon turn you more knowledgeable on this beautiful topic.


Follow me on Instagram @leaniejoubert


Photo of Beatriz Simon. Mexico

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