Art | How To Read A Painting?
Drawing tries to present what language has failed to present, a more open and transparent relationship between people and things. Just as Michel Foucault says:
-||- The relationship of language to draw is an infinite relationship because the word is incomplete and falls in helplessness towards the visible that it strives in vain to transcend because they cannot be reduced to one another, so we say in vain what we see, because what we see never dwells in what we say, and in vain we have worked to make others With pictures, metaphors and comparisons, they see what we say now -||-
So in front of this gray, obsessive and repetitive language always light up the drawing, as a solution to a gray relationship between words and things, a relationship that drawing makes more transparent.
But should we not, first of all, have to learn how to read a painting in order to understand that silent language between man and painting! The painting is like a human being, composed of psychological layers, from the surface to the depths, each layer aiding in understanding what is deeper than it. And it can be read simply on any board depending on a particular technique that we will explain here. But first of all, we have to be aware that reading a painting is not an arithmetic operation 1 + 1 = 2, and any other result will be wrong. On the contrary, there is no correct interpretation or a specific interpretation is wrong. They are only purely interpretations that reflect from the viewer exactly as much as they reflect from the painting. If a person is reading a painting, he is reading from himself as he reads from the painting.
We’ll start with simple steps that help us understand the paintings step by step:
First: Take a look.
The beauty of the painting lies in the plot involved in the painting as well as the style of drawing. Take a closer look at the board. The work may not catch your eye at first glance, but delving into it completely attracts you. Do not consider a painting to be beautiful or ugly based on your perception of beauty. Art is not about to impress you as much as it raises a question within you. Take a look … give the board a chance.
Second: the painting about what?
The painting may be about a person, historical events, environmental terrain, scenes of daily life, animals, psychological and emotional states, … etc. Some panels have no subject; This is known as abstract art. Abstract art relies on the bleeding of colors on the canvas, it is the seer’s handling of this bleeding that gives it meaning in association with the title that the painter gave to the painting.
Third: What does this content mean?
Here we will outline three simple steps based on which we can compose an explanation or an initial reading of the work. We will assume that we are the mother of a business about which we do not know anything; Neither the artist, nor the date of the work, nor the name of the work, nor anything. We will start as follows:
1- We will search for the painting on the Internet (search by image)… The name of the work, the painter, and many interpretations of the work and the museum in which the work or auction in which it was sold will appear.
2- Before reading the interpretations provided for the work, if any; Find the illustrator, and you’ll see several sites dealing with his biography. Knowing the biography of the painter and the school he belongs to is a very, very important step in understanding the nature of the work. For example, if the painting appeared with many geometric shapes, it might seem to alienate to the seeker who prefers simple flowing lines! By searching, the painting may appear as that of Pablo Picasso, for example… We will know that he belongs to the school of Cubism and Cubism has a special philosophy and so on… You may find that what you alienated from him at the beginning strongly expresses you in his depths!
3- Symbol analysis and the establishment of meaning.
Now we know the content of the painting, the painter, his school, and the title of the painting. Painting as we said above as a human being; may need a simple and superficial reading and may need analysis and further investigation. We will now begin analyzing symbols to establish meaning; This meaning will take on a personal touch from our lives when we recite our last reading of the work. Therefore, the reader’s imagination plays an important role in deepening the value, impact, and reflection of the painting. For example, a person may see in the scene of a dying girl that it is just a scene of a dying girl, and this is truly a simple reading of the scene, and as we said above, there is no correct reading and a wrong reading, it is purely interpretations that reflect from the painting as much as it reflects from us. While another person might see that the scene of a dying girl based on the life of the painter, who was suffering, for example, from loneliness and mental disorder, it is a scene of the artist’s life collapsing, his personal agony, and his rejection of life! Some may rely on the fact that the dying girl’s body language indicates resistance to death, and this is interpreted as the painter’s desire for life. Or he explains her body language as giving in to death, and this is considered a suicidal tendency for the painter. Thus, there are many interpretations and visions, but they all have one thing in common: that our interpretation of a painting explains to us as we interpret the painting.
The following are some of the panels that we will try to apply the technique and the previous steps to them and provide an initial reading about them. But the reader has to know a simple piece of information before entering this world: the majority of painters, especially from the nineteenth century until the late twentieth century, were suffering from mental illnesses and psychiatric conditions, the least of which was severe depression. Therefore, those who deal with the work of painters in that period, and painters as a whole and in general, must take into account the nature of the painter’s psychological life, as well as interpret his works sometimes in terms of this psychological or mental illness.
Painting of Silence
The first step: Take a look at the work. What you see may attract you. You may feel that the work touches a specific psychological state in you!
The second step: painting for what? A woman sits, withdrawn, with no features.
The third step: By searching for the image on the Internet, we will find that the painting entitled Silence was painted in 1800 by Henri Fuseli (1741-1825).
Step four: who is Henry Fuseli? Find an anonymous artist and get a general idea of him. This will help you get to know the various works him and the nature and style of his drawing. Henry Fuseli (February 7, 1741 – April 16, 1825) is a British painter of Swiss descent, the second of eighteen children by Johann Casper Fuseli, a landscape painter and a portraitist, and an art historian. Henri Fuseli initially studied at Caroline University in Zurich, Germany, where his father wanted him to be a pastor. Henri Fuseli tended to paint paranormal themes and highly complex and depressing human states. He believed that the drawing must have a metaphysical, transcendent character, and this was due to his strong influence by Michael Angelo and the mythology he presented.
Fifth step: what does the content mean? Silence (1800) by Henri Fuseli is a woman sitting cross-legged in a cross-legged position, with hair covering her face. What do we understand from this scene? Here comes what we said earlier that it is our reflection on the board and the reflection of the painting on us.
Where does the woman sit? There is darkness .. darkness envelops the woman as if the whole scene is part of an inner cave. As if sitting in the darkest caves of the soul. The scene does not impose any story or emotional scenario… We do not know the woman or her story, all we perceive is the absolute silence that imposes itself as a transcendent metaphysical symbol. In a scene that could not be more clear, if the title is taken from the board – you will automatically find yourself calling it “silence” .. with all that silence contains isolation, fear, loneliness, and self-isolation.
The woman’s head is almost surrounded by her arms … as if the body is embracing the head that is trying to drown in. The woman is completely immersed in herself … in her cave. The sheer intensity of gloating gives the impression that the woman is trying very hard to hug herself. Quite simply, the scene expresses the abstract language of silence: introversion, darkness, isolation.
The second painting…
The first step: Take a look at the work. Some works may not attract you at first sight, although they may be closely related to your psychological states.
The second step: painting for what? It appears to be the head of a man. and what else? Colors are dim, features are blurred.
The third step: By searching the image on the Internet, we will find that the painting is a personal portrait of the painter Theodore Jericho (1719-1824), which he painted for himself shortly before his death.
Step Four: Who is Theodore Jericho? Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault is a French painter and considered one of the pioneers of the Romantic school of painting. Here comes the importance of reading about the painter apart from painting. Our knowledge of the nature of the painter’s mental state contributes to the interpretation of his last portraiture before his death. Jericho had sporadic periods of mental illness and his family had a long history of mental illness. Despite his mental illness, his paintings dealt with several human subjects, such as the Inquisition in Spain and the slave trade, and carried a romantic character. In most of his paintings, he portrayed human existence as fragile, sick, and lost.
Fifth step: what does the content mean? Jericho painted himself as an old man, even though he was still young (32 years old), without the ability to see, hear, smell and speak. Jericho’s features in the painting appear completely molten and collapsed. As if she had endured what she could not do. Jericho died after drawing this portrait at the age of 32 as if he was saying through his painting “I’m satisfied,” he cut off the paths of communication with the world, got rid of the world before the world got rid of it.
In conclusion, reading paintings reflects from us as much as it reflects from the painter. We, in turn, read ourselves when we read aboard. The beauty of the matter is that there is no correct interpretation, and a wrong interpretation is purely interpretations that only resist in a space as wide as the human soul. Your reading of a work, and if it differs from my reading, this does not mean my or your deficiency. It is only our different human experiences with which we approach paintings from different perspectives. However, in any case, we must in the end not deviate from indulging in art with all our strength. It’s not about luxury, but rather because aesthetics, and it may be aesthetics alone, can really save the world from its perspective collapse. Hold on to beauty wherever you are, in anything, even in the smallest detail, even in the simplest things, even in a rose that has just opened.
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