Analysing art – how and why?

There’s a difference in how we look at anything when we just look, when we look at it to understand something, and when we look to make a deeper analysis. In this post, I’ll give you my view on what we do when we actually analyse some kind of artistic expression, and also why we do (or should do) it.

We analyse everything we see, wether it is art or not. We analyse it to understand what it is we are looking at, so we can form an opinion about it. Most of us do it by habit, and we get used to analysing our surroundings through one spectra alone.

But seriously, though – doesn’t that get rather tedious?

To unconciously understand the world around us brings us into that well known squirrel wheel of habit. We understand things like we always have understood them, and we are too lazy to train ourselves to understand it differently.

The way I see it, one of the most important things to remember is that when you get into the serious analysis of art (as in when you are an art historian for real), you always choose which perspective you want to look at something with. What this means to me is that there is no singular truth to what we see and percieve and understand. It also tells me that we can always choose which perspective we want to look at something with.

When it comes to looking at art from different perspectives, I can give you as examples – look at something through a financial perspective, or through a political perspective (Trump versus any other politician), matriarchy versus patriarchy, worker versus business owner, children versus adults, sex worker versus nun… when analysing art you don’t have to put two things against each other, but it does help to show you the point of view.

Another thing that can be very, very interesting when it comes to looking at art, is what we can learn about different periods of time. We can learn how, for example, medieval artists percieved and expressed both religion and the people presented in and through it. Then we can compare it to how the artists of the renaissance represented the same motives – all the way through history up to our own days. That teaches us about perspective as well.

Now, having answered the qustion on why we should analyse art, there is the question on just how we do this. The answer to that question is way to long to fit in this post, but I’ll try to give you a point of origin.

The key, I think, is to break down the analysis in several parts. Think on how you look at pictures shared on Facebook; you most likely react to what you think you see, which may not at all be what you actually do see.

There are many, many ways to look at pictures, and I will begin to go through the ones I enjoy using, one by one, through my blogging. There are also many things that are “the most important thing” that you need to remember – one of them is the multitude of perspectives you can choose to use in your understanding of any piece of art.

One of these “the most important things” is that you need to understand and remember that if you put any value on an image, a piece of art, that value is yours. That does not mean it is necessarily true. Truth always go through many layers of perception before it reaches you – from the intention of the artist, to the media used in creation the artwork, to how it was understood in its time, to how it has been percieved, understood and known through history since then, but also – how you choose to percieve and understand it. And that which you think about it may not at all be what was intended from the start.

So – now you have a short introduction on why and how to analyse art. In future posts I will adress the matter further, and hopefully it will give you some interest in the wondrous world of theory and the analysis of art.

Welcome back! 🙂


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