The UAE has a rich cultural history and the upcoming Expo 2020 is the perfect time to establish itself as an international hub for promoting art and culture. However, us regular folk might feel overwhelmed and intimidated when entering an art museum. So, I sat down with art expert Anna Seaman who reminded us that we don’t need an art degree to appreciate visual art.
Anna worked for 4 years as an art writer for The National. Now, she works as a freelancer and runs a website where she reviews every art event happening in UAE.
Anna is very familiar with feeling overwhelmed by art. She has been writing about visual contemporary art for the past six years. Before she took her first job as an art writer, she turned it down three times. She explains, “Honestly, I felt it was too elitist for me. My only experiences of art exhibitions had been confronting. Upon entering, I would often strange looking art pieces being guarded by a single person behind a counter who hardly looked up when you walked in. Feeling the need to look informed, I would gravitate towards the written text whether that be on the wall or in the form of a handout. And, more often than not, I would read a sea of long and intimidating words that further confused me.
So, I would smile, nod for what I thought was an appropriately long enough time at one of the artworks and then scurry away not wishing to return unless someone could tell me what I was supposed to think”.
That is a complete #mood and we can totally relate!!
Anna continues, “ I always enjoyed visiting galleries when I didn’t think I had to say something smart. I had seen art as something like music, subjective and something that your reaction to would change depending on your mood. It was only when I pursued my career as a writer and I found myself challenged by the language surrounding visual art that I felt uninformed. So, when I was offered the chance to write about visual arts in the UAE by The National newspaper, I said no. There was no way I could pull all this unknown language from my hat without a degree in art history”.
So how should we view art?
“There is no right or wrong way to look at a piece of art and there are no rules as to what you should feel. Like a poem, a musical composition, a piece of dance or indeed most other forms of art, your reaction is completely your own and can complement or be at odds with what the artist originally intended. Indeed, any reaction is valid because it is a reaction. I think there is only one thing that all artists would agree on – they want a reaction. If you feel nothing, then the artist has failed”.
Forming an opinion about something we see and hear? Girl, we do that All The Time with social media.
Finally, I asked Anna how she hoped to influence her readers through her website. She replied, “When I write about art, my intention is to allow the viewer in, to make you feel free to think whatever you like and to help you out with a bit of contextual, background information and some entry points. After that, the journey is your own, and I encourage you to ignore the wall text until you have made up your own mind. Who knows, there might be an art critic in all of us, if only we let them out?
To summarize, art is very subjective.
And the goal is to make the viewer feel something, even if it’s not what the artist intended. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed because you define what the piece means to you. I’m suddenly so inspired to enter an art gallery and give it a try!
If you would like to read more about visual art, check out her website here.