Tate Debate: How much of the story behind a work do you need to know?

This week’s Tate Debate asks:

Do you think you have the same connection with a work if you know nothing about it and the artist, or is your experience enhanced (or even diminished) by knowing about the processes behind a work? How much of the story behind a work do you need (or want) to know?

My answer is here, but I have a few more thoughts.

I’ve always felt an aversion to long-winded explanations of art.  I would rather just get in there and DO the art – words are a distraction.

I love words. I  always have.  I love to read.  But when it comes to art,  I switch off the verbal part of my brain so that I can immerse myself more deeply in shapes and colors.

But this is just one way of processing art, and it might seem dismissive to folks who are highly logical or verbal all the time.  Especially if they love art but don’t do it themselves;  they can’t immerse themselves directly in the experience like the creator can.  They break it down, process it, and incorporate it into their own consciousness in their own way.

It might be a good idea for artists like myself to take their cognitive differences into account and make more  effort to communicate better in our art statements.  Up until now I’ve favored a minimalist style that let the viewer make their own decisions about what they’re experiencing, but maybe that’s not enough.

What do you think, readers?

2 thoughts on “Tate Debate: How much of the story behind a work do you need to know?

  1. Good thought! I am not good with words, that’s why I paint. Painting is so much more honest than words because it just IS and doesn’t have to explain itself. That’s just my selfish take on the art I make. I can’t stand long analytics about my art. I hate reviews and critics the day after the exhibit -the wait for either thumbs up or down. I don’t care.

    But then on the other hand, when I am looking at artwork, I want to know who the artist is, the background story, where the person is from, who influenced the artist, etc etc… I know it’s weird and contradictory, I am expecting other artists to reveal more of themselves but I don’t want to explain myself.

    So blending the two opposing attitudes, I choose the middle way and I tell people who look at my art my story. Who I am, where I am from, what I have learned, where I have traveled and what my take on this world is. That should do the job and help to “understand” what I do…
    I hope that made sense 🙂

    Franziska San Pedro
    The Abstract Impressionist Artress

    Btw, I found you on Twitter after you left such a nice comment on my blog, so nice to meet you!

    • Hi Franziska! Nice to meet you too.

      I feel the same way in that I want to know more about other artists but find it difficult to explain myself. Part of it I think is that I process my own work nonverbally, so talking about it means running it through the verbal part of my brain. Somehow I fear that will damage it.

      Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you found my blog.

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