An artist often gets sketched and immortalized in his work. Not only this, he also renders himself vulnerable to criticism as art appreciators flirt with his creations for centuries to come. After all, it is an artist’s legacy. However, the onus of appreciating this legacy lies on the viewer and his ability to appreciate a creation. If not perceived in the right manner, you may not be able to do justice to the art form. We, at ULA, believe that before you start analyzing art, a chartered path always helps. Hence, with our students, we always promote a three-pronged, Form – Theme – Context approach that they should follow before they set out to analyze any artwork.
A form of an artwork can be defined as the basic design of artwork which is independent of thoughts, intent, feelings, and context. It is the ‘painting’ itself that comprises its Form. Toying around with various aspects such as lines, shapes, shadows, lights, balance, perspective and vision among other things, an artist creates a masterpiece. All encompassed together, a Form that is visually captivating gets created. The sole purpose of Form is to make an artwork appear visually appealing.
Art is a very powerful medium capable of evoking a range of emotions in the viewer. Through centuries, artists have been instrumental in uplifting the mood of their audience as well as ruffling them up with grief, anger or contempt or even at times raising important introspective questions for contemplation. The vibes and thoughts it exudes lie in the Theme of a painting. The Theme of a painting depicts the subject, the big idea, the perspective of the artist along with the visual sources/references of dance, music, theatre, film, mythology and more.
The subject of an art is essentially the essence of the piece. Ask yourself what is actually depicted in the artwork and what does the artist actually want to express adding on to the Theme of the piece.
The central idea of the painting is the Big Idea delineating the Theme of the piece. When looking for the Theme, you need to try to find out what the artist wishes to express in one line and the idea shall reveal itself in totality.
With the canvas, the advantage is that there can be vivacity in imagination. An artist can paint world upside down, and straighten the curvy realities. Understanding the artist’s perspective is crucial to understand the Theme of the art. It is like stepping into the shoes of the artist and understanding the thought process that has gone into creating the art.
Looking out for details in the forms of characters, backgrounds, stories, tales, rituals and other aspects always help in understanding the Theme of the painting. Many times there are underlined references which when identified adding a completely different meaning to the art.
Pleasing the eye is not the sole intent of a piece of art. What sets a masterpiece apart from an ordinary piece of art is the depth of feeling it can evoke in the viewer and the multilayers of emotions integrated into it. These are factors that motivate an artist for being able to nurture a lot more intimate relationship with his work. And only then, the cultural, ethical, religious, moral, educational context comes across transparently in a painting.
Connecting to the artist’s Context you need to dive into the 5 Ws, asking yourself questions such as: Why did the artist paint this? Whom did the artist refer to? What is the meaning conveyed? Where and when was the piece painted?
Such questions shall help in understanding the Context better as well as help empathizing by getting into the shoes of the artist.
The Form-Theme-Context approach discussed above, though helpful, is not a thumb rule. Different schools of thought adopt different ways to develop a deeper understanding of art and it is up to a student to choose an approach that he or she likes the best.
You can also analyze a painting through June King McFee’s conceptual framework. McFee’s framework effectively dissects the world and the mindset of both – the artist and the audience, in relation to the piece of art. It simplifies the study of the art and brings about a clearer picture.
Similarly referring to another school of thoughts, The Ginger Whellok Institute Of Fine Art promotes looking at Composition, Drawing Skill, Perspective Values, Skill With Medium, Colour, Harmony Or Value Harmony and Edges And Emotion while analyzing art forms. On another level, the famous painter Hogarth valued Fitness, Regularity, Variety, Intricacy, Simplicity, and Quantity while analyzing different art. Whatever the theory or tools be, walking an art form through a pre-defined and chartered analytical path can be helpful. For that, it is imperative to read and analyze the art in the right manner so as to appreciate and pay the right amount of respect to the artist who has created it.