Tuesday, 26 February 2013

How to look at a boring painting -- and why

I was quite touched by everyone's positive response to my post about how to visit a gallery with children.  Thanks for all your feedback and extra ideas!  And I was quite surprised how many of you liked my suggestion to go to an art gallery and look at a boring painting.  

So I thought I'd follow that up.  ;-)

Why be bored?

We aren't used to being bored.  We're used to being entertained and distracted. If something's not 'fun' or 'spectacular' or at the least, 'interesting', we've been trained to reject it. This goes for everything, from school to movies, books and art exhibitions.

The idea is: if you're not grabbed immediately, you might as well give up.

The merits of being bored

If you're bored, your brain is forced to be active. Everyone knows how inventive bored children can be and how they can literally make toys out of toilet rolls. And have you never had a brain wave in a less-than-mesmerising work meeting? *g*

You're going outside your comfort zone. What is one person's boring painting is another person's beloved masterpiece so being bored is not about the work of art: it's all about you. And that's what makes being bored interesting.

So here's what to do:

Go into a gallery. Pick a painting (or sculpture or print) that totally bores you. Plant yourself in front of it and just stand there for 10 minutes.

Take out your notepad and take notes. Write down everything you see.  Make a sketch (who cares if it's rubbish?).  This helps you to deal with the boredom!  But more importantly: once you've covered two pages with observations and scribbles, you'll probably start to be weirdly less bored. You may start seeing things that you hadn't realised were there!

Or perhaps you will discover why you'd been so bored in the first place. People's critical faculties tend to be much sharper when faced with art that they don't like. In front of something we love we dissolve into an adoring mush.  We gush: "It's fabulous, it's awesome, what genius!"  But if we don't see the point of something?  We will really look at it with critical eyes!

We will also not gush vaguely ("awesome!") but be very specific: "This is horrible. Look at those vile colours in the background, and that spiky thing on the left: I don't even know what that is! And I like to know what things are in a picture! And the arm on that woman is much too short; the perspective is all wrong."

So that's when it gets interesting. Why do we not like spiky things? Why do we need an arm to be a particular length, and what is the 'right' length? Why does a picture need to have 'correct' perspective?

Be more interesting than the art you see

If a picture is boring, your thoughts have a chance to be more interesting. Make your thinking more interesting than the boring work of art.

Last week, I used myself as a guinea pig. I went to a room in the Fitzwilliam Museum which is full of pictures that bore me brainless, and I stood in front of two of them for 10 minutes.  I will post about this in my next post!

So come back soon and find out what pictures I find truly dull. :-)  Until then: have a lovely mid-week.

Don't miss out on the boring sequel to my quest:  Subscribe to my blog per email!

The next part in the 'boring' series will be posted on Tues, 5 March!  Title:  Why I Hate Gallery 17.

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