“I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like”.

Actually I do know a lot about art. I’ve been a full time artist for nearly 30 years and this statement is one I hear often. Interestingly, I’ve found that people who say this DO know about art, even if they think they don’t.

There’s a presumption that art is only for the educated or well off – that “ordinary” people’s opinions have less value. Not true. Art in universities and art schools is a wonderful thing. It allows art appreciators to read an artist’s story in a particular way. But there are many valid ways to read art.

There is the presumption that there is good art and bad art. I disagree. I believe that there is only art that suits. It’s a fluid thing. If today I walk into a gallery and enjoy a contemporary artwork that makes me think, then that’s a fine thing. If tomorrow I walk in and walk straight back out again, then that’s OK too.

There is the presumption that galleries aren’t for “ordinary” folk. I disagree. A gallery is a shop. No more, no less. Some shops have things to buy; others have things to experience. Some have a select market; others are more egalitarian. You don’t have to know everything before you walk into a shop, so why would you expect to, when you walk into a gallery?

When someone says “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” they’re already a vital part of the art world. They’ve seen the artwork. They’ve thought how it relates to them, now they’re discussing it. Democracy and autonomy are about the freedom to have such opinions. Appreciating art, often in the harmless environment of a gallery café, is a small step in self-determination. A step we can all take, and enjoy.

THE GAME OF THREES three friends, three artworks, three minutes.
1   Find an art gallery in your area – with a café. 
2   Invite two friends along.
3   First walk through the gallery, then choose three random artworks, one each.
4   Spend exactly 1 minute with your artwork. Set your phone alarm (on vibrate) or choose someone to watch the clock.
5 Ask yourself: 
What do I see? Active looking such as counting objects helps concentration
What do I feel? Take your attention from the painting and into the area around your heart. Identify the feeling there.
What can I imagine? Close your eyes for a moment. Open them and step up close. Imagine yourself inside the artwork. What’s the story you hear?
6 Go to the café and drink tea. Share your experiences. Which did you like best? Or least. No right answers, no wrong answers; just opinions and stories.
Art is a conversation: use it to start one.

Image: “The Red Shoes” 2012 multi-plate colour etching 6x6cm. Chosen to represent the importance of taking that first step.

First Published:  St Carthages Community Care SPRING LIFE Spring 2017

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