The art market is continually shifting towards online spaces. When browsing art online, we may feel overwhelmed by the vast array of options available on our screens. Although there is no right or wrong way to see art, this article provides a starting point for viewing artworks in the digital realm in order to “train the eye”.
Questions that often arise in relation to artworks are: are some artworks objectively appealing and others are not? What aspects of artworks are important to be aesthetically pleasing? How can we highlight these aspects with our online presentation of artworks?
The pointers provided in this article will enable you to dismantle the subjective responses you have towards an artwork to better understand your experiences. Ultimately, it is our emotional responses to artworks, influenced by colour, style and composition, that truly makes us fall in love with a work of art.
This article won’t directly tell you how to see, but rather provide you with a set of questions and prompts which you can employ when viewing art online.
How to begin the viewing process
When it comes to art, the “digital” and “analogue” worlds are not so distinct. However, something to keep in mind is the obvious difference between viewing art online and in-person: scale. Online art can become decontextualised without a sense of space and scale. This is especially true for abstract art.
The dimensions of artwork is essential to keep in mind in order to perceive and understand it. Therefore, it is important to use the room view offered on the Singulart website in order to visualize how the artwork will appear in context.
Below are two abstract paintings:
There are a couple of general questions we can ask ourselves when looking at artworks such as: From a surface level, what do we see in front of us? Or perhaps: what words come to mind when we initially see it? Then we can identify the style.
Having looked at these abstract paintings, we could ask ourselves about the colour. Do you like the artists choice of colour? Is the colour range complementary?
If a colour palette is pleasing to our eyes, it creates emotions or corresponds to our aesthetic perception. This is especially true for abstract art where the colour is decisive.
Now, notice the brush strokes. What sorts of lines are being made? Do the lines merge into one another or remain distinct? Once you’ve identified the objective features, we can analyse how these affect our subjective opinions.
Style, composition, application of colour and technique are important qualities that we interact with when viewing artworks. Even if one is not an art expert, these factors are perceived subconsciously, thus influencing whether we find a work of art appealing or not.
Look at the following two figurative artworks:
We can employ the same prompts from our last examples to begin looking. What do we see in front of us? What words come to mind when we initially see it? Can identify the style?
Looking at the figurative examples above, ask yourself about the two artist’s use of colour and line. What do you enjoy this technique? Look at the chosen composition: how does this direct our eyes towards certain features, or have the ability to send us on a journey to decipher new elements in the painting?
Both examples chosen are both distorted and made cartoon-like, yet we can still identify with them. The recognisable features of the human body are manipulated in such a way that is simplified and stylized. Thus, the paintings provide us with a different kind of viewing experience than is found in the natural world.
Discover more figurative artworks here.
Portraits and Faces
Human faces are difficult to depict. They are created in order to communicate with the observer – whether they succeed or not! If the artist does not succeed in capturing the viewer, it tends to be less appealing.
Look upon the following examples:
Returning to useful prompts which we can use when training the eye towards faces: what elements of the image arouse curiosity? Is it through an emotional response e.g. irritation or sympathy? Or is it the style of the piece creating a new experience which captivates us?
In the portrait examples above, we observe that the painting technique can be decisive for emotions. What emotions are created? What features are generating these emotions?
In essence, our minds subconsciously recognize faces. The abstracted face, however, breaks the usual habit of seeing and creates irritation precisely because of this.
Above we have 2 landscape pieces. As discussed, we can consider the style, composition, colour selection, application and technique used that can be easily identified and that make these elements appealing to the eye.
Although very different, both paintings display sophisticated painting techniques which have the capacity to bring you into a new setting. Do the paintings remind you of a place? Or perhaps do the places conjure certain moods?
For me, the former painting, with its sharp, crisp lines and refreshing colour palette brings a sense of calm and serenity. Meanwhile, the latter – with its bright, playful colour scheme lifts me into a happier mood.
Places, as well as people, can provoke emotions, which again is rendered in our subconscious mind by the artist.
To summarise, we can train our eyes to notice certain features of a work of art which allows us to connect to it. Using the questions and prompts provided here, we can dismantle our initial ideas and feelings towards an artwork. These questions allow us to identify features such as style, colour, composition and emotions.
- If we find the style unique or unusual, we experience a new way of seeing that captivates us.
- Colours create emotions or correspond to our individualized aesthetic perception.
- The composition directs our eyes to guide us on a journey to decipher elements and messages.
- Finally, we ask ourselves about what emotions are stirred by an artwork.
These are naturally generated by the above elements, but it is the subjective feeling that is the decisive element for people who fall in love with a work of art.