03 August 17Hope Terdich

How to appreciate art: An average person’s guide to Arts Week

Ever since and even before, Marcel Duchamp stuck a urinal in a gallery and called it a fountain, it seemed that our ideas of Art were constantly challenged. 

Is art not just some paint on a canvas strung to a gallery wall? Well, no. And most of us will know that art is more. There are sculptures too, but where does it end?

Does art include the frame? Does it include the white space on the wall? Does art include the eerie feeling of being watched by the security guard, who thinks you are about to leap forward and give the painting a massive bear hug, leaving behind remnants of your jam doughnut!

And with these questions bubbling away in your mind, we can often find that art, whatever shape that may be, is inaccessible. But for all the normal folk out there, this is a chance to understand how to truly to appreciate Art, in an unpretentious manner.


How to Appreciate Art

Sometimes when I go to art galleries, I find myself watching other people looking at art, instead of actually looking at the artwork myself.  From watching others I have learnt a few “basic rules” on how to appreciate art.

For instance, how long you look at an artwork is important to how you convey your opinion of it. Standing too close to art, sitting on it (even it looks very much like a chair), or swinging on it like a monkey generally is a no go. Also, I have never come across someone wearing a monocle whilst viewing art.  It then does seem that a monocle is not a prerequisite to appreciating art. This is in some sense disappointing, because we are all waiting for the day that monocles are the in thing.

That said, this is an important guide to anyone interested in attending Art Week at Deakin, but does not consider themselves to be art ‘connoisseurs.’ Just FYI, I use the term ‘connoisseur’ as if I were wearing a monocle myself, except with a distinct level of sarcasm.

How long must I stand here to appreciate this art?

Come along to the Burwood Campus on Tuesday 22nd August or at Warrnambool on Thursday 24th August, and view our art exhibition, particularly a piece on show at Burwood titled “My Experiences at Deakin”.

Here you can measure your own reactions. But also stop and look around at all your friends and peers: where do they fit if you were to describe their reactions? Does it capture how you feel about your experience at Deakin?

From experience, the amount of time spent looking at an artwork in galleries says a lot about what it means to you. Do you take the time to appreciate all art? Or maybe you’re the #5-second guy and just ready for the free food!

#The 5 seconds guy: If your art appreciation level is less than 5 seconds, then clearly you either think that someone must have put the painting on the wall upside down and have gone off to tell someone to claim your reward. Or, your partner dragged you along and you think galleries are a race to see who can finish it first. If you are an under 5 seconds person, moreover, clearly you do not care about other people’s opinions about your opinions of art. That is probably a good way to be!

#The 10 seconds guy:  Potentially you are still the 5 second guy, except you are more lenient with your time and have allowed for some quality day dreaming time. Or maybe, you just like the colour blue.

#The 15 Seconds guy: Ok, so now it is more likely that you are conscious of that fact that your not sure how long is long enough? You think, if I leave to early, then maybe others will think I am the 5-second guy and that I don’t get it. Maybe you are even reassuring yourself that ‘I am sophisticated: I totally get the purpose of this painting’, so you stay another few seconds to make sure that someone else notices that you definitely get it.

#The 20 Seconds guy: 20 seconds is actually quite a long time to look at something if you have no clue what it is you are looking at. Try staring at a blank wall for 20 seconds and you will realise that 20 seconds is actually a long time.  So by now, your face is probably going to start telling the story.

A classic is the #squinty eyes guy who thinks that squinting their eyes may reveal the paintings 4th dimension and send you into an epiphany. I have yet to see that happen.  But to all the art gurus out there it is true that squinting your eyes focuses on the detail.

Obviously, the #crumpled nose guy does not like what they see.

#The 30 Seconds guy: I think this is kind of when you make it.  This is like the wholly grail of the gallery goer. This is where you can truly appreciate art and formulate your own opinions. An opinion that just happens to be, ‘actually yeah, they were right, it does just look like a blue square.’

How not to Appreciate art

The standard conversation between the economics major and the creative arts major follows as such:

Q: What did the Creative Arts student say to the economics student?

A: Would you like fries with that.

Creative Arts students are the perpetual underdogs. Unfortunately for those doing a creative degree the average salary is among the lowest in Australia. And, yes, it is hard to find work out there in the creative field, too! How not to appreciate art is, then, to think of it as futile.

With that then, what is art? As we see from how to appreciate art, it shows how we engage with each other. Art is not a personal pursuit, but a community expression. It is whatever you find beautiful that you share with the world. It is, actually, even broader still, any object that inspires you to think and feel within your community.