Ways of Seeing - How to appreciate an art piece you don’t understand?

-- May 12, 2022 3 min read
way of seeing summary

So this is my summary of ways of seeing. (The way of drawing a summary is inspired by Austin Kloen).

Drawing as the fulfilment of desire

I picked up the book Way of Seeing because I consider myself an idiot to art. When walking into a gallery or art museum, I am always wondering, what makes this drawing so different than others? If in front of me is a beautiful woman with perfect shape or a muscular man with iron like outline, I can better than understand why this is a master piece, because it captures the details and everything so perfectly. But if the drawing is about some food lying on the table, then I am sorry, I don’t really find it fascinating.

That is actually normal, because not all the drawing are drawn for art. There are lots of purpose of drawing.

In the book, the author quoted a sentence from the view from Levi-Strauss

It is this avid and ambitious desire to take possession of the object for the benefit of the owner or even of the spectator which seems to me to constitute one of the outstandingly original features of the art of Western civilisation.

Simply put, oil painting created during 1500 - 1900 were for the purpose of satisfying the desire of the collectors (the riches). It is just like camera as we have today, but it couldn’t be copied, so every painting was unique, and therefore precious.

In that sense, I think it is understandable that not everyone can appreciate a piece of drawing. We may be able to understand why is this drawing famous from the context of history, but we may never be able to feel truly the genius of this creation, because the piece of drawing may not be created for and from inspiration or expression of personal feeling.

Camera as the destroyer of meaning of art(?)

Another part of the book that I find especially brilliant is the explanation on how the invention of camera and photos transform the meaning of art. Art works needs to be understood not only from the context of history, but from the environment that is located in. But camera can capture the image of the art as many time as possible, distribute it and place it any where you want. That allows anyone to distort the meaning of the art pieces.

caption of the proccess to calvary

People are rushing to a place. In the crowd, there are normal poor people who travel with their foot, and there are also the riches who are on the horse.

caption of the proccess to calvary

They gathered on a square, where seems to have something happening.

caption of the proccess to calvary

It seems to be something bad, because women are crying and preying.

caption of the proccess to calvary

These drawing are captions from The Procession to Calvary. Although my story isn’t too far from the original meaning of the drawing, you can see that a drawing can be dissected into many different part and turn into a film, which the orders of different matters. If somebody is creative enough, he/ she can turn it into a completely new story.

With camera and limitless image copies of drawing now becomes an information that can be manipulate to distribute any kind of messages.w