The Edge, as many of you know, is an arts centre on the University of Bath campus, a leading UK university which teaches sciences, engineering and design, management, humanities and social sciences.
Whilst considering that the university doesn’t formally teach the arts, and that many of our immediate community do not frequent galleries elsewhere, we decided to create something to assist curious minds to help unlock the art of seeing. So, with that in mind, we have put together a guide which offers ways to look, think and find a voice to talk about art.
This guide is in the form of Ways of Looking; originally designed to be used primarily in our galleries, these tools can also be used to explore the rapidly increasing volume of online exhibitions too, or even to look at your own home in new ways.
You bring a lot of unique perspectives: your life experiences, memories ideas, interests and opinions. Keep this in mind while you’re looking. We have different personalities, genes and backgrounds. Like films, music and books, we don’t need to have the same opinions or tastes. These strange times lend themselves well to spend some reflective time with yourself and relish in your own thoughts, or catch up with a friend over video call and use this as an excuse to talk about something a little bit different.
Below we have listed some of our top tips. Dip in and try one or two, or spend a couple of hours delving into creative depths. Whether you are an art lover, a scientist, an architect or a candlestick maker, you will bring your perspective – that’s what makes art so interesting!:
Although we’re generally talking about artworks and online exhibitions, there’s no reason why we can’t use what’s surrounding us… Take notice of your cat, the photographs that have adorned your walls for years or a holiday postcard, and look for details you haven’t noticed before.
Describe it. Relate it. Analyse it. Interpret it.
There are many interpretations in art (of a painting, song or book). What does your chosen object, animal or image mean to you? Artists use art to communicate ideas; how can we apply that idea to what’s around us? Each viewer will have their own interpretations, and that’s okay.
A lovely idea for an alternative lunchbreak is to video call a friend, each having chosen a piece to look in a little more detail. You don’t need to spend a long time to get something out of a work of art – embrace a ‘micro visit‘, inspired by Art Fund.
Give your imagination a workout and spend a few minutes creating a story behind the portrait or inventing conversations between sculptures. Be playful and have some fun. Re-visit the same piece over a few days or weeks and see if your ideas, opinions or thoughts on it change.
Alternatively, schedule 15 minutes or less in your day to look at art online, or simply leave a creative publication in your kitchen to micro-visit whilst you’re cooking or waiting for the kettle to boil.
On the contrary, you can also spend a long time soaking up all the details of an artwork before reading into it.
What can you see? Think about colour, line, texture, shape, light and space. Talk about it with a friend, they might have noticed something different.
Think outside the box, think with your senses… What might the piece sound like, smell like, feel like or taste like?
Tate has some wonderful tips on embracing the art of slow looking; “it’s an approach based on the idea that, if we really want to get to know a work of art, we need to spend time with it.”
Galleries can offer an oasis of peace and tranquillity, or an array of stimulating new ideas.Art Fund
What if the artist was here, what would you ask them? When was it made? What was happening in the world at the time? How would you describe your experience in a sentence? What stood out?
Think about what exactly you want to know and what’s important to you.
Remember, you don’t have to like everything you see.
An interesting way to explore this is to think about why you might not like something. Is it the subject? The colours? The way it’s made? Something else?
Have a discussion with someone else. What do they think?
Here are some more creative ways of engaging to try…
Let us know if you have any other ideas!