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Friday, 9 November 2018

Spotlight: the moods of art appreciation

What is your mood when you like a work of art?
What do we want from a work of art? What is it we seek or crave? Is there something we need art to give us?
With a couple of strangers, on the last day of the street art festival, Upfest, I looked at this piece. It is a spraycan artwork on a large board, outdoors, like Sam Manley did with the Ludlow Paint Jam.
The three of us admired this piece for a while. It was Monday morning. It took a while to admire it. Or six eyes helped take it all in. We shared observations about it, mentioned details. The verdict was "So... it's got everything."
It has nature, history, fauvism, perspective, caricature, deep shadow, journey, contrast, palette, use of tools, relatability, civilisation, economics, composition, heroism, dignity, and a branch turning into a pencil.
Zipf's law is about the frequencies of words in a book, or in a magazine. Zipf analysed how often words occur, and concluded that written works contain a limited number of themes and main identifying factors. There is more to it than that obvious conclusion, but that is the essence of it. Zipf actually demonstrated a mathematical formula for the frequencies of words in books, which really works and is quite surprising. Zipf's principle could inform us as to the ways in which some factors dominate in a team, a room, or a painting. (It does not, but it could.) A painting of friends having a picnic by a river could focus mainly on shadows with a dose of heroism, or be about nature with a side salad of economics. It is unusual for anything to have an even spread of attributes.
On that Monday we stared at this painting long, and said it is epic. We loved it. I still do. Now I am confused.
Maybe our taste, at any given time, fits our mood and surroundings. For example, when all around us is calm, we like balanced art with a sense of equilibrium - and conversely, when we are emotionally charged, or loaded with caffeine, we revel in bold art that displays excesses.
Or... Maybe it is the other way around. Maybe we go for bold art when we are in a calm state, as a way to mitigate against possible boredom. And maybe we like calming images when we are in a state of agitation or excitement.
This notion, of how art matches our mood and circumstances, might also apply to how we make art, as well as how we view it.
If you are making art, presumably it matches your mood. If we start painting something calm when we are agitated, we feel calm. And vice versa.
Something we liked about this piece is that it felt exciting and bold, while also being calming. I think that is why it took us so much concentration to take in: by having such an array of attributes it matches your mood, and simultaneously hits the opposite state as well.
This is something I crave to achieve when I create art pieces: comfort and challenge. 
This painting went down very well at the end of Upfest. It is by Peter Sheridan.  I would like to meet the artist and ask him these questions.  Please tell me if you have answers.  Thanks folks.  
Happy painting.  May you be heroic and calm.
@petersheridanartist
Today (9th November this blog is scheduled to publish) is my birthday.  I also have an opening of an exhibition in London this evening. A good time to feel heroic and peaceful. 







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