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Updated: Nov 17, 2021

A Brief Guidance and Explanation for New Buyer on How to Understand an Art Piece.

Imagine, you are walking throughout the national gallery of your respective country and discovering hundreds to thousands of paintings of your local maestros from time to time. Different styles, different approaches, and yet you are confused, “What’s the meaning of this? Why this one particular painting worth to be exhibited here?” Then, you hear someone talking within their group, admiring and praising the specific painting that does not give any spark to you. You are constantly wondering while keeping walk through the gallery’s corridors, what makes this artwork great and hailed, and you are upset because you want to understand but can’t. Together, we will guide you on this page a simple way to look at art and understand them a little.

You may hear about art from a glimpse of history subject in school. Still, honestly, there’s not much coverage about art history since there are fewer painters who gave an impact to the world rather than the other artists such as poets, musicians, and writers, especially in Indonesia, where you might find no painters are listed as a national hero. Yet, in “100 Figures who Changed Indonesia,” first published in 2005, Affandi and Soedjojono were listed as one of the 100 influential figures in Indonesia, which is great to hear. So, if you feel irritated for not knowing much about art and its history, fear not because maybe art did not have a significant role in the development or the journey of your national history, that was filled with war and military, politicians, activists, and journalists figures.

Let’s get back again; you are sitting in the same gallery, staring at the paintings surround you while wondering, “what these painting speak about?” In accordance to know them more, there’s guidance that you can follow by understanding some key elements of the respective painting that caught your interest which is:

  • The background history,

  • the painter’s biography,

  • the date this painting was created (you can examine from the political and economic status back then, or social issues that were hyped at that time),

  • element details of the painting (brushstrokes, lines, styles, figures, colours, texts, etc.)

  • title.

Some paintings may hold a bizarre and fascinating scenario in them, and some are just a manifestation of the painters’ impulsive minds and emotions that triggered them, such as abstract or contemporary art, which is hard to describe and understand without the help from the curatorial writing attached near the paintings. However, not all paintings are provided with the narrative explanation, lucky if you have it, but if not, you can try by examining the elements presented or convey what you feel the moment you look at the art piece.

Let try to examine one of the artworks featured on our website; this artwork belongs to Agus Cahaya, titled “Mother Care” (2021).

We are going blind together, without knowing a thing and relying only upon the description provided on the web page (material, title, price, year-date, and size).

First, what do you see in this painting? Then, explore the elements in this painting by looking at it for a couple of minutes and tell what captured your attention.

Second, do the title helps? What does the title speak about? Do you clearly understand what the painting is about by reading the title? However, if the title is absurd enough to understand, you can ask yourself why?

Third, Explore the situation in the painting. What are they doing? what kind of activities are presented? Where this place or situation was taken? Do this setting was related to any particular events in the past?

Fourth, analyze the composition in this painting. You can examine the composition consisting of the line, shape, texture, form, shape, and selection of colours that the painters incorporated together. You can analyze by starting to look at the movement of the brushstrokes, the contrast between the colours (sometimes the contrasting between darker and lighter objects can emphasize the main focus of the painting), and the proportion between figures like how close/distant they were or how big or small compare to the other objects in this painting.

Fifth, does the colour selection triggered you something? You can ask or introspect yourself do these colours ignite any feeling in you or why the artist choose these colours. Will this make any difference if they choose another colour?

Sixth, convey your feeling when you look at this artwork. What does this artwork mean to you? Does this remind you of something? Do you feel the emotion that emits from this art piece? Do you feel relate to the situation or maybe the feeling this painting talks about?

Last, immerse yourself in the work. While looking at the piece, you can try by imagining the situation inside the painting, like hearing the sounds, noises, or conversations that might happen between the mother and her child, or smell the breezes surrounding, and maybe looking around as if you are dragged into the painter’s world inside the painting.

As you can see, to appreciate the art you don’t have to take an art class or learn art histories devotedly. In order to fully understand the art, you must believe that this thing takes time. The more you explore, the more you discover and try to trust your opinions about the thing you spectate. You might find a different perspective with others while seeing the same art piece but that is the fun part about art, right? Through our paradigms, we can open further discussion and broaden our knowledge by transferring the ideas and visions of ourselves about how this work of art impacts our feelings and personality.

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