Letter: Five simple steps to art appreciation

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The Independent Online
Sir: I respond with sympathy to Ivor Lightman's regretting his inability to enjoy some Post-Modern artworks (letter, 5 December). His main problem seems to be with artworks that closely resemble (merely) functional objects. Faced with such an object, I would suggest the following approach:

(1) Accept it is art. A characteristic of Post-Modernism is self-legitimation. If a person has created a work and we see it in the context of an art gallery, that traditional situation assists a preliminary belief in it as art that any of our reservations about self-legitimation may defeat.

(2) Observe it carefully. See how it may differ from the functional object(s) it may resemble with respect to the material it is made of, for example, or its colour. Consider its tone, texture and size, and the space it is in, and many other overt messages of its artistic purpose.

(3) Remark to yourself on the things you have noticed, not least that you have actually noticed them. This should initiate a proud feeling that even at this level there has been a type of appreciation.

(4) The most difficult stage, perhaps. Try to consider a purpose within the object itself. What is it communicating, including and beyond its obvious messages and initial more functional associations? Concentrate on it as if it is unique and important. Try to develop interest in it and treat that as a challenge. Imagine a little based on what you see.

(5) If all else fails, pretend you have to defend its artistic nature in court, thereby necessitating an appraisal of it. This can be surprisingly illuminating.

Yours etc,


Denbigh, Clwyd

5 December