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Introduction

Photo by onilmilk
Photo by onilmilk
Getty Images Pro, via https://www.canva.com

The Greek philosopher Aristotle had said that “the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance”. The Spanish painter Pablo Picasso had declared that “art is a lie that makes us realise the truth”, while according to the French painter Edgar Degas, “art is not what you see, it's what you make others see”.

But then again, how do we “see” art – at least in the case of visual arts such as painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, filmmaking, design or even crafts and architecture? Works of art can often be “difficult”, meaning that their interpretation can be far from obvious. And the question remains: is there a right or a wrong way on how to view and interpret (visual) art?

This quest invites you to go deeper into that question, acknowledging that even if we are not “art scholars”, there are still some basic guiding principles that can help us interpret a work of art. In addition, learning how to analyze work of arts, especially paintings, can help us enhance our skills, become more creative and innovative and also reconsider how we see ourselves and the world around us.

Task

Picture of a bowler hat and an apple on a bureau, homage to Rene Magritte painting “The Son of Man”
Picture of a bowler hat and an apple on a bureau, homage to Rene Magritte painting “The Son of Man”
By nito100, Getty Images via https://www.canva.com

Terry Barrett, an American art critic and professor has said that artworks are always “about something” and that to interpret a work of art is “to understand it in language”. Whether we admit it or not, most of us have experienced at least one moment of “uncertainty” while viewing art; that awkward feeling that “I am lost for words” and “I am just not getting it!”. And then, when you finally “get it” (or at least “get something”), a new world opens in front of you.

Your quest is to explore the complex yet rewarding process of artistic interpretation and learn how to use art, in particular paintings, to increase your visual intelligence and improve your observation and communication skills. Get ready to interpret your favorite painting and see “more than meets the eye”!

Process

Art is beautiful but it can also be disturbing or even terrible, it can be pain-healing or pain-provoking or even incomprehensible. We are usually being told what we should look at, appreciate and analyse as “art”. However, there are times that we can still feel and acknowledge something as “work of art”, even if no “expert” has told us to do so.

In this quest we will focus on works of art that can be found in museums, in particular art museums with painting collections. What you are asked to do is to identify your most beloved painting and try to interpret it by creating either a short text-analysis or a video-presentation (you can see the quest on how to make films) or even get inspired and write your own song lyrics (you can also see the relevant quest).

Read through all the attached documents, explore the online sources and watch the videos (with subtitles in many languages) that will guide you in your interpretation process and facilitate you to see artwork in the greatest museums without leaving your chair.

 

Conclusion

Learning how to observe and interpret art can help us re-connect to ourselves and the others; it can help us start paying attention to both the “big picture” and the “small details”, as well as noticing what is absent and what our instinct has to say. Both the seen and unseen matters. But the most important is that art can lead us seeing the “extraordinary” in our everyday life and try to be more creative and open to questions, discussion and investigation for “something more”, no matter how small, that can change our life.

Evaluation

Learning Outcomes

  • Learners reconsider how they see the world, themselves and the others by learning to analyse works of art.

Knowledge acquired

  • Learners will gain knowledge of national, European and global cultures and expressions, focusing on art and cultural products.

Skills acquired

  • Participants enhance their visual intelligence, their communication and analytical skills, and also become more creative.

Competences acquired

  • Learners find out how art can invite us to see things from another perspective, solving real life problems.