Thursday, 04 October 2007

The Art of Seeing.

Why do we look at pictures?
An artist's main gift is her eyesight. Without this sense we cannot interpret our world. Without a sense of the profound beauty of the world in which we live we are poor indeed. I only became truly aware of the precious gift of eyesight when I started painting late in life. I had always been sensitive to beauty before that so it was natural for me to focus on things and let my eyes take in a scene or the beauty of a face or form. I wonder, though how many people really appreciate this sense? So many people think they are looking at things, but do they really see them?

Looking and seeing are two different things.

Just like hearing and listening. Before I started painting I had done a Life Line course, where one is trained to Listen. Now I mean.....Really .....Listen.... Not just hear, but Listen the voice behind the words, the thoughts and pain and anguish behind the sound. The job entailed working on a crisis telephone Line where troubled people would phone in for help. I heard alcoholics ranting about the abuse they had suffered at the hands of their husbands. I heard teenagers in despair, almost suicidal over a broken relationship. I heard it all, even heavy breathers who would phone in to get their kicks. I was taught not to give answers or judgements or advice, just listen quietly and let them talk. It was a skill which has never quite left me. I find I am one of those people to whom people spill out their life-stories.
At one time I thought it was quite a burden and there was a time when I had taken in so much mental pollution from all the negativity that was thrown at me that I had to go for some serious spiritual cleansing to re-establish my boundaries.

So it is with Art. Before you even contemplate owning a piece of real Art, it is perhaps advisable to ask yourself some questions:
"What do I see?" or
"Am I really seeing properly?" or any other questions you may have to do with the art of seeing. Just spend some time appreciating sight and vision and what they mean.
Let these questions really sink in at a really deep level. It is no use spending just a minute on this. It is a serious, life-changing thing if it is done properly. Just casting a cursory glance over an object, or a mountain, a landscape or your pet is not good enough unless your eye is truly trained in experiencing, appreciating and understanding beauty and can take in at a glance the importance of function, form and aesthetic appeal. Sometimes, your gut will inform you and that is to be trusted. Art must be experienced emotionally as well as physically and spiritually. You will "know" when a picture ( I mean a scene in real life as well as a 2D painting) is right for you. It will speak to you as well as make you want to look again and again. It has a voice. Listen to it. Your own voice will answer. You may want to cry, or laugh, or exclaim. This is all good. Art is interactive. The picture needs you as much as you need it - it needs you to fill in the missing areas, muse at the forms, imagine what is happening off the frame. It is a neverending story.

Start at page one, by simply being aware of seeing.

Being awake is something we all take for granted. Being consciously awake, however, is when the seeing really begins. When that happens it is as if your eyes have been peeled. All the layers of stuff that you put there, the suppositions and expectations just fall away. You will start looking and seeing things differently, as if for the first time. It is exciting and sometimes even scary.
Then you will begin to know a bit what a painter's life is like, and what effort goes in to produce a painting or sculpture. It is a bit like coming to one's senses.

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