How to appreciate art without knowing anything about it
Art wasn’t really my thing growing up. I preferred moving pictures, like the kind found on my TV screen. Art was something for other people to enjoy: other people with monocles and an appreciation for fine wine.
But as I got older, I started to appreciate the skill and time that went into creating art. Twice, I have been able to visit the National Portrait Gallery, which contains many huge, fantastic, pieces of art. I knew very little about any of it; all I knew was that I enjoyed examining the minute details of the art, whether it be a sculpture or a painting, or whatever else.
But art isn’t just restricted to a stuffy old building in the middle of London. Nor is it restricted to established pieces of art – like sculptures and paintings.
Graphic novels, video games and other digital mediums are all examples of a new wave of art forms, aimed at mass appeal whilst still exhibiting great beauty.
One of my favourite graphic novels is Batman: The Long Halloween. It depicts a Gotham City draped in traditional Gothic architecture, with new and exciting depictions of classic Batman villains: The Joker is a stalk-like figure with a grin larger than his head; The Calendar Man is isolated in a cell overflowing with calendar pages. Batman himself is drawn as appearing to have been formed from a cloud of smoke, like the Grim Reaper.
This is an example of great artistic work, combined with a thrilling, and adult-orientated, storyline. It smashes prejudices that comic books can’t be artistic, or serious works of fiction. The best bit being, it doesn’t require any real knowledge of art before you turn the page.
Video games, as well as comic books, are also breaking new ground and reaching out to new audiences, with developers creating fully-explorable, and massive, areas of space. The time and skill which went into creating open-world environments, like the kind found in Bioshock, Fallout and Batman: Arkham City, far exceeds the time and work which goes into some established pieces of art, found in art galleries and at auctions. In addition to this, these pieces of art are accessed by millions of people, as opposed to the negligible numbers who attend art galleries these days.
The vanguard medium of this artistic revolution has been cinema. Once, cinema was reviled as cheap entertainment for the uneducated masses. Art was still believed to be reserved for those deemed appropriate. However, as time went on, and directors and actors began producing intelligent and mature cultural influences, more and more people were exposed to culturally important media, without necessarily any prior knowledge of the subjects under discussion.
So my argument is, that the way to appreciate art without knowing anything about it is just
to dive into the pool of intelligent, and beautiful, films, video games, and books. If you enjoy established pieces of art, then peruse the art galleries and shops for such pieces. If you don’t, do not think that you are somehow uncultured for enjoying alternative pieces of art.