Look at this Art(icle)

By Serena Ypelaar

In all its abstraction, art somehow manages to reach the deepest parts of us. Art can make us feel understood; it can help us process complex emotions; it can foster empathetic reactions, or merely offer us some beauty to take solace in.

Our fourth and final theme on The Mindful Rambler, “On Art“, will explore how artistic works can give us something to relate to, and how artists achieve resonance through their craft. It’s always astounded me how artists can capture common elements of the human experience to make the viewer/listener/consumer feel that they can relate.

“A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” (1884), Georges Seurat. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
I shouldn’t generalize, but artists seem to summon something from within them to produce their art – whether it’s about loss, suffering, heartbreak, healing, comfort, or acceptance. Or even just an element of everyday life that they wanted to capture. These depictions offer us the opportunity to connect through shared experiences, despite probably never having met one another.
Tom Thomson’s “Northern River” (1915) reminds me of camping trips I’ve taken almost every year of my life, and seeing it makes me nostalgic. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For instance, I’ve never met A.Y. Jackson (of Group of Seven fame) or Tom Thomson because they predeceased me, of course. Their paintings tap into the beauty of the Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes in Ontario. For me, such beautiful portrayals of the Canadian landscape spark countless childhood memories of camping trips in Ontario Parks, bringing up a sense of awe and nostalgia – in short, making me feel something.

I should define art more broadly. This column won’t just talk about paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, and other art you’d see in art galleries. When we talk about art, we also mean music, dance, drama, textiles, fashion, and that which is created as a form of self-expression. We can get into the minutiae of high art vs. low art later (a discussion that’ll hopefully contribute to a our interpretive mindfulness) but needless to say, we will discuss all kinds of art here.

What seems like commonplace art that we access daily, such as music, will also make up a significant part of this column – we’ll examine how it can connect to us emotionally, every day. The point of this column is to question our responses, and our desires implicit desires in consuming art. What do we hope to get out of art? How do we react to it? How do we express ourselves in response? Based on our expectations and needs, how do we decide whether we like a piece of art or not?

power plant
Kader Attia’s “J’accuse” (2016), on display at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Canada. How do you feel looking at this artwork? Would you feel differently if you feel if you walked through it in person? Photo: Serena Ypelaar

Next time you look at a painting/photograph or listen to some music or go to the theatre, think about these questions, because art, and the experience of interacting with it, may be more about the self than we realize.

One thought on “Look at this Art(icle)

  1. I completely agree. I’m a painter myself, and I only paint when I feel longing, and when I need to express myself through remembrance and comfort. Art is exceptional in the way that we can express ourselves, and invite others to feel as we do. Thanks for the lovely article!

    Liked by 1 person

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