Today was a day of rain that played perfectly into a plan of meeting fellow artists and talking about different aspects of art-making - a good 'shop" day. Later, however I walked through a local gallery full of decorative art of high caliber which did not call out to me very much. I started thinking about the curious alchemy of "the gaze" - that moment when one's eyes fall on a painting or drawing, and it almost impels one to draw closer and look harder. You can look at countless pieces of art, in a gallery, in a museum, where ever, and then suddenly, bam, there you are - summoned and enmeshed, in a completely unexpected fashion. The typical French "coup de foudre".
What is it about this business of "the gaze"? Amanda Renshaw, Editor at Phaidon and coordinator of the book, "30,000 Years of Art. The History of Creativity" was being interviewed in El Pais (in Babelia, on August 1st, 2009) and said, "I believe that the gaze is a form of language, and using that gaze is the best way to connect ever closer and more successfully with art. the connection between the eyes and the brain and emotions is absolutely fundamental." She went on to explain that text about art on a museum wall, in a book about art or elsewhere is secondary in importance to the actual art images.
It is true - the artwork calls out to one long before one thinks of reading a label on a wall. The more one looks at art, however, the more each of us can hone that gaze to be not only one of interest, pleasure, amazement, but also of informed, knowledgeable appreciation. Gazing, seeing, really looking at art is one side of the equation. As an artist, the other aspect is the equally important action of looking hard at whatever one is trying to draw or paint, not only to understand it and record it, but to filter it deep into one so that, somehow, the alchemy of the gaze helps create a viable piece of art.