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Understanding Art Connoisseurs

I somewhat understand what connoisseurs have to say about movies - other than that, I don't understand a shred about painting, architecture, sculpture, etc. In most cases, even though I may understand what the experts have to say about a movie, if the movie doesn't appeal to me, there is no point in understanding a pundit's exposition on it. Because, I believe, that an art work has to move me, enhance my life. If it doesn't there's not much use in understanding a movie through someone else's eyes.

1 Responses to “Understanding Art Connoisseurs”

  1. # Anonymous Srinidhi

    I for one always found it (and find it) difficult to understand whatever any 'expert' in any field was trying (/is trying) to say.

    I also used to think that it was my 'ignorance' that prevented me from understanding what they were trying to say.

    But over time, when i slowly began to try to widen my understanding of an art form (for example Music or Film), i found out that i still couldn't understand many of them - and that the problem was/is with the way they choose to put it across (their words) and not with the 'capacity' of an 'average fan' like me.

    I also understood after some time that its important to know this distinction: When it comes to reading experts, it's a question of reading the right people and more importantly, not reading the wrong people.

    Easier said than done. How does one find out?

    Many a time, experts/connoisseurs tend to get lost in jargon and make too many assumptions about what their audience knows and does not know. Most times, this causes the 'gap' in understanding.

    At other times, it's genuinely a case where the intended audience is different from the person who ends up reading it - if you and me were to chance upon an Architecture magazine where a particular article talks technically about the use of glass in modern skyscrapers in terms of proportion and composition, of course we would find it difficult to understand - because it is intended for people who are already familiar with the basics as well as the nitty-gritties of their art and the author is trying to propose/convey a new idea. If it were his intention to talk to a lay audience, then maybe he might have worded his article differently.

    Conversely, many 'so-called experts' mess up even when they are asked to explain their ideas to a lay audience - because they're so used to hiding behind their jargon and tech-speak to fool us gullible people. Stay away from such 'pretenders' who can make you lose your very interest in Art!

    This is a universal phenomena - irrespective of whether it's Art or Technology. Some specialists find it difficult to explain their ideas to laymen and a lot of energy is wasted in efforts by laymen to understand such specialists.

    So, the point is this: if you want to know more (w.r.t. reading about Art) about a particular form of Art, first allow yourself some time to experience it. Then, start reading about the basics, and try to look out for people who have a conversational style of writing, as opposed to a formal style.

    Let me give an example: Let's say you want to learn to appreciate Indian Classical Dance. First try to attend a couple or more performances. Try not to get into abstract theme-based performances/shows (like the "Exploration of the concept of Alienation in Modern Life" or "A Depiction of the Sexual Oppression of the Female Gender in Ancient India") Smile by modernist dance-theatre groups , but stick to straightforward Bharatanatyam recitals. If you are keen enough, you will soon notice that masters of the art form (people like Padma Subramanyam or Alarmel Valli or any seasoned exponent) will be inventive enough to deliver performances which are capable of being appreciated by lay audiences as well as win the approval of critics at the same time. Try to catch those kind of performances - they will help you further your learning curve faster.

    Then, read what critics write about the performances that you have seen. See if you're able to identify points in their criticism/review that you felt you picked out during the performance. This will help you relate to what you have seen. Try talking to people who might know more and be willing to explain. Surprisingly, most 'real' artists are highly accessible, if you approach them the right way. I have known many South Indian classical musicians/performers who are willing to explain their Art to eager listeners after concerts. Appreciation is essential to any Artist, and indeed to Art itself.

    From an average fan's perspective, all this is of course easier said than done, but hey, we're talking about people who are really, really interested. Such people will definitely make time to know more about what they enjoy.

    Srinidhi  

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