Something interesting happened to me whilst exhibiting my work at Contemporary Art Fairs Surrey last month. I was showing my largest work to date, a 150x240cm diptych called "Serenity Reimagined" which I blogged about previously. It was pretty audacious perhaps, full of wild energy and it's sheer size made quite a statement. I absolutely knew that the right home was waiting for this painting and the right person would see it and connect with it.... and indeed that is what happened. But I'm not congratulating myself for my powers of fortune telling or manifesting - I wanted to shine a spotlight on what happened before I sold the painting.
"You use a glass mirror to see your face. You use works of art to see your soul." George Bernard Shaw.
A gentleman stopped to look at the diptych. It had received a lot of positive attention throughout the weekend and I had had many conversations about it with visitors. But he didn't stop to tell me how much he loved it - he stopped to tell me all that was wrong with it and was visibly irritated, even angered by it. I was absolutely fascinated by his response! I enquired what it was that he saw and all that I could deduce was that he was quite annoyed by not being able to make sense of it. There were too many straight lines (and in fact he thought there were too many abstract artists making too many straight lines in general!). All he could see was a void. He was confused. Abstract art shouldn't look like that!
Wow!!! A whole ten minutes spent telling me this when he could have just walked on by and ignored it? I was genuinely amazed at the intensity of this response. And I wasn't in the least bit offended by his opinion - I stand by my work and I know that the right person will be drawn to it and will totally get it.
So it got me thinking about what it is we recognise when we look at art, especially abstract art. Because it is a recognition - we see what is already inside of us and connect with it, or... we completely ignore it if there is no recognition of anything at all. There are, of course, countless reasons why an artwork might trigger strong negative emotions - maybe the viewer cannot stand the colour blue, or has a low tolerance for the sheer visual tension in the painting, or a certain combination of shapes creates an unconscious association for them which triggers a bad memory. Maybe they feel it's "Just Not Art". But maybe, sometimes, we also see or feel something that we know is missing....? Maybe that touches a nerve? Who knows, but in any case, it is the viewer's experience of the art that completes the artwork. For them.
This is why I always say there is no tyranny in my abstract work. It is open to inidividual interpretation and to me, that is what I find so beautiful. You get out of it what you bring to it - the painting is just the catalyst.
My new work will be on show at Contemporary Art Fairs Newbury, 10-12th May. Come and see if you love it or hate it 😉.