The Laws of Nature

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Art and Explanation

Lenz's Law
watercolor, 20" x 26"
Katharine A. Cartwright, NWS
I've enjoyed reading your comments on the last post, and especially your reaction to my question about the artist's statement. It would be great if a work of art could just speak for itself without a dictated meaning by the artist that everyone must uniformly understand. Rather, I like the idea that meaning comes from the individual viewer. This opens up a world of possibilities.

For instance, is it important for the viewer to know the definition of Lenz's Law in order to appreciate this posted painting? I would hope not. As an artist, it's my intention to use how I understand that physical law to create an aesthetic work rather than to illustrate the actual definition of the law. I'm not an illustrator.

And, what about the time factor? Each new generation views things differently. Imagine how people viewed the Mona Lisa when it was first painted hundreds of years ago versus a 2013 teenager viewing the same painting. I like the fact that time can change the meaning of a painting rendering the work timeless in itself. I would like to think that if my paintings survive hundreds of years that new viewers will see them entirely differently from present viewers. Sure, art historians will want to uncover the original meaning but - who cares? I still think that art speaks for itself in the hearts and minds of the individual viewers despite whatever artist statement I concoct.

What do you think?


L.W.Roth, said...

Welcome back Katharine. I've missed your thought provoking posts.

Viewers respond personally to paintings based upon their backgrounds. But the artist's title nudges them towards the artist's meaning. Being the curious sort, I would want to look up Lenz's Law to get a clearer understanding of why you chose to paint those interlocking mechanical widgets with those colors. Titles serve the viewer as a directive and the viewer either can relate, or cannot. I do like titles, better than numbers.

Having been a spacial designer who worked with a lot of engineers, lawyers and doctors, I know your paintings would appeal to their sensibilities. That group adores precision.

Margaret Ryall said...

Speaking as a viewer, I don't have to understand every nuance of an artist's content, but I like to have an avenue into a work because it extends my own thought. Speaking as an artist and viewer, I am very curious about what is ticking in an artist's head and how this is played out in a work.

Mark Sheeky said...

I think a meaning IS important because for me art is about communication... and something has to be communicated that is meaningful. I've been thinking recently about art by male vs. female artists and if there is a difference. My idea was that generally male artists like to communicate an idea through art and female artists like to show something to attract and encourage interaction rather than state something (the idea came from birds!) I wonder if this the case for viewers too hmm... Myself, I find an artwork that is meaningless, however nice looking, is rather empty, and to invent a meaning would not be satisfying! I have to try an work out what the artist meant! Nice to be back on here. I wish I had more time to blog and browse.

Dan Kent said...

At a local gathering I questioned some of the contemporary artists, when I stared at a picture of installation art. Granted, I had not been able to be there to observe it, but I asked whether one could relate to it at all without knowing some of the history of the artist or some hint as to what the art was about. I was assured that it needed no history. That the piece effectively communicated on its own. I remain skeptical.

I like having a door in. Although I could enjoy your works purely on aesthetics alone, I like to know something about your reasoning and make it a point each time to look up the definition of the law you reference. Of course, that is only a part of it, and not the whole. I must then use my personal history to decide whether I relate to the piece and what, if anything, it means to me.

Personal history, even in this time period, would affect how one reacts to a piece. You needn't even consider time - a more extreme example. I know, though, that my understanding of older art has been enhanced through an explanation of symbols in the paintings for example. I know that you even used such a symbol in your self-portrait and your explanation added meaning for me.

Katharine A. Cartwright said...

Hi All - Lots of "meat" in all of your responses. This will take some time to digest, but I appreciate each point and think it's wonderful that each of you has a slightly different opinion. That's what makes art discussions so interesting. Thank you!

Celeste Bergin said...

Yes, the time in which the art exists is key! What will the people of the future think of the daily paintings...all those cherries and orange slices! haha (I do wonder this..will people in the future have any feeling for our 6x6 painted coffee cups and such?) There are so many daily painters and I wonder if the earth will collapse under the weight of it all! (just kidding)

Katharine A. Cartwright said...

Hi Celeste - yes, how will daily paintings be judged in the future? I guess they'll give folks a glimpse of our daily lives and what's important to us - or, at least, what we deem beautiful and interesting on a daily basis.