A portrait of Art, revisited

It has not only been the blog that took a back seat in the past months. Actually, so many things took the back seat that life felt like driving a moving van, and I was circling the block to find a parking spot.
Still, one of the things in the back of the van was art. From frantically leafing through Time Out to find the next exhibition I went to passing the art section and going straight to the TV listings. My relationship with art felt jaded, a bit altered.

You see, I was now questioning whether I actually liked art. I remember having a discussion with a good friend almost 10 years ago, and she proclaimed herself artistically dead inside. That was quite a diagnosis, but she seemed certain. So recently I was wondering if that part of me died recently, or if it was never alive to begin with, and I had convinced myself to be an art zombie.
I realised that for the majority, I would walk in, take a quick spin around the room, and pay more attention to how I framed the pictures for my blog post than noticing what lied in the frames in front of me. I would try to remember the info on the side of the work more that the work itself. I was reporting on the exhibition instead of visiting it. One museum assistant once asked me why I take pictures, and I said that I am covering the exhibition for my blog. He asked me if I went to a lot of exhibitions, and I replied that I cover a lot of them. He asked me if I liked them, and I caught myself flexing my mouth into a smile, and replying mechanically yes. But did I?

So, when I was standing in front of the National Portrait Gallery I felt a bit nervous. The BP awards have been on for some time now, and I have been going to see the works every year since I came to London. I have walked the room as a student, as employed, as fired, as certain and uncertain as I have ever and always been.
I went with my partner, and at some point we lost each other, as we have different art watching paces. I made a point of not taking any pictures in the beginning, just going around the room and taking each painting in, look at the work instead of the info next to it.

It was a new experience. I was not looking a the forest, I was climbing the trees. The work did not really thrill me as much as it did in the past, but the experience did.
I decided on my three favourite paintings (Kristy by Geert Schless, Net no. 10 by Daniel Coves and Portrait of Sean by Jennifer Renshaw), took a quick snap of them, made a last round around the room, and walked out in the sun, inhaling as deeply as I could.

A portrait could say more about the viewer than the sitter. So, what is there to see?






7 thoughts on “A portrait of Art, revisited

  1. I know what you mean. When I realized that covering an arts event/show for the blog meant I was spending a significant amount of time taking photographs or making notes – mentally or otherwise – it dawned on me that I could be missing some of the experience of just simply taking it in. A similar experience happened on my first (and only, so far) trip to NYC four years ago. I consciously stopped taking so many photographs so I could be more fully present in the space.

    It’s a really healthy thing to stop, be still and question our own engagement and connection to something that may have turned from a passion into a habit. Good on you!

  2. It’s good see an update from you again, and I can really relate to the moving van comment.

    One of the thing I like about visiting my local library is the rotating art exhibits they have on in various places throughout the building. And after reading this post, I wonder if I’ve just been looking at the artworks as opposed to really engaging with them.

    1. Thank you, it is good to write again! I know what you mean about the engagement, I just feel that art needs a bit more than just a passing glance, and that is what most of us offer (busy lives, other priorities, personal tastes). Your local library sounds great!

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