LivingArts: Art Through Different Eyes

In my work I have found that my perspective about things is constantly in flux, often despite my efforts to maintain a sense of stability. This is true professionally, personally and artistically.

When talking about art, the lens through which I interpret a work can be tentative at best.  It takes the smallest turn of a conversation to shift the way I relate to a specific work. An example: I've recently been working with a group of new volunteers at the Gallery and my task for them at the end of our training session is to choose two very different artworks and to create a mini tour that connects them in some way – their challenge is to find that connection.  What I love about this activity is that even though the works they choose are usually very familiar to me, other people’s interpretations give me an entirely new insight into the work. I am far happier talking about two works together than one in isolation and this has proven to be true and effective again and again.

It's all about considering how an individual sees an artwork.

This particular example compares Kim Adams’ Bruegel Bosch Bus and Eric Cameron’s Another Brushstroke. At first glance these two couldn't be more different. But comparing aspects of the process, concept and the psychological impressions that a viewer can imagine led to a fantastic new way of thinking about two works that I already really like.  I leave the details of this connection out, in the hopes that some of you may try to create your own.

As another example, I am interested in connecting an artist’s own words with the interpretations of the viewer.  It is a balance between the artist statement and the visual cues present in the work (it also demonstrates many of the challenges of creating an effective artist statement).  Ultimately, as an educator I feel that if the viewer is unable to find the connection between the artists’ interpretation and their own, the artist has not been completely successful – more often in their own expression of their work in their statement. The true interpretation falls somewhere between the artist and the viewer: works are meant to communicate with their viewer in some manner, and their interpretation is the result.

In my artistic practice I see this as well. I usually learn something new about my work or its contents when I talk to others – this may sound odd, since I should be the authority on my own work, but as an artist working with found objects I see a myriad of interpretations of individual objects or of the grouping of them.  Where I see something as representative of one idea somebody with different experiences will interpret that same object in very different ways. Others’ ideas usually have an interesting impact on my own ideas.

Professionally, the idea of shifting perspectives is an essential part of our reflective practice and development.  It is very easy to get comfortable in proven success, but the introduction of a new person or idea to the mix, while unsettling, can often lead to exciting new ideas, innovation and growth.  Perspective is a sliding scale at best, and it is the shifts that occur than make for the most interesting and transformative experiences.


Images (from left):

Kim Adams  (Canadian b. 1951)
Bruegel-Bosch Bus    1997-ongoing 
1960s Volkswagen bus, figurines, mixed media
Art Gallery of Hamilton

Acquired with the assistance of the York Wilson Endowment Award at The Canada Council for the Arts, and with funds from The E. Muriel Baker Estate, The Russell Nelson Eden Estate, and the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, 2001


Eric Cameron  (Canadian b. Leicester 1935)  

Another Brushstroke   1990-1999

acrylic gesso and acrylic on a single brushstroke of black acrylic paint (3704 half coats) from the artist’s Thick Painting series

Art Gallery of Hamilton

Gift of the artist, 1999