Sunday , 19 May 2019
Finding meaning in images

Finding meaning in images

Contemporary Indian art historian, art critic and curator professor Raman Siva Kumar will conduct ‘Engaging with Art: A workshop on reading art and art writing’ under the Mario Miranda Chair in fine art/painting/illustration/cartooning. NT KURIOCITY gets more details


Aiming at art critics, art writers and students of art, the ‘Engaging with Art: A workshop on reading art and art writing’ will be held from October 22 to October 26 at Goa University. The workshop will be conducted by Contemporary Indian art historian, art critic and curator professor Raman Siva Kumar from the art institution of Santiniketan, West Bengal, who is currently serving as Mario Miranda Chair in fine art/painting/illustration/cartooning. He will also deliver a public lecture on ‘Engaging with Art: Finding meaning in images’ held in association with International Centre of Goa (ICG), Dona Paula on October 24 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the ICG Hall. The public lecture is open to all.


NT KURIOCITY spoke to Kumar to know his opinion on art criticism and how one can appreciate a piece of art


Q: What kind of training or knowledge does one need to appreciate or read a piece of art?

You do not need any special knowledge or formal training to appreciate art. What you need is visual sensibility and some visual literacy just as you need verbal literacy and literary sensibility to appreciate literature. While literacy allows you to read a written text or image and decode its meaning, it is sensibility that allows one to find deeper literary or visual pleasure. Just as linguistic scholarship does not make you a better reader of literary texts, knowledge of artistic conventions or art history will not make you a better connoisseur of art. Knowledge can be acquired but sensibility cannot be fully acquired. But, that said, you can always do something to cultivate your sensibilities. Exposure to good art, slow looking, probing engagement, reflection on possible meanings, comparison between art objects etc can help you in this. Along with these efforts, informing oneself about art can also be helpful.


Q: Who are the most expressive artists? What kinds of pieces of art are easier to read?

Which artist we find expressive will depend a little on us. Different kinds of art express or communicate different things. Some for instance may communicate a sense of beauty or quietude, others a sense of agitation or vigour, each one of us will appreciate one more than the other depending on our inclinations. What is more important is to see what a work expresses and if it does so well; whether it is superficial or does it offer a deeper thought or experience. Again what is easier to read will depend on your abilities. Many may consider realistic art easier to read and abstract or conceptual art more difficult. But they who consider realistic or representational art easier could be merely recognising the represented objects, without gaining much else from it. Others may consider representation a distraction, just as some may consider lyrics a distraction in music.


Q: What are the points one should keep in mind before writing about art?

Art writing is of many kinds, some of it is scholarly and meant for engaging in a discourse with other learned viewers of art, others address the general intelligent reader, and in each case the writer has to keep his or her intended readers in mind. But the most important thing is that the writer should have something to communicate, something his or her readers will find interesting; and be able to put thoughts into words in an engaging and illuminating way.


Q: What is your opinion of art criticism and can an artist avoid being criticised?

Art criticism is not about picking out negative values as it is sometimes believed. The art critic engages with the work of art from an aesthetic, social or ideological position and in the process makes the work more accessible to other viewers and opens up a conversation with them. Art criticism is a way of opening a piece of art to scrutiny and locating it within the larger world of art and life.


Q: What can participants expect from your workshop and lecture?

We will be looking at art together and discussing some of the ways in which art historians look at art and the methods they use to trace their meanings. More importantly, it will give the participants an opportunity to learn from each other. After all we all learn our first languages as children not in schools but by immersing ourselves in a community of speakers. It is not necessary that all members of this community should be highly literate or erudite for you to become proficient in language, if you are receptive enough to the feedback you get from them and work upon them imaginatively you can go a long way.