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Making sense of art history
In this unit you’ll explore art history. Look around you, it’s likely that wherever you...
In this unit you’ll explore art history. Look around you, it’s likely that wherever you are you’ll be able to see some images, it’s also likely that many of these image will be intended to have some sort of effect on you. Here you will be exploring the power of images via a study of contemporary art from the 1980s onwards. Taking the time to look beyond the immediate appearance of an art work to consider what the artist might be trying to say can be immensely rewarding.
Studying this unit will:
- enable you to develop your ability to identify the effects of art works;
- introduce you to a range of artistic techniques, such as the use of colour, composition and medium;
- enable you to explore the relationship between effects and techniques in a range of art works;
- enable you to explore some of the factors involved in interpreting meaning;
- enable you to explore the significance of context in informing the interpretation of art works;
- enable you to further develop your study skills.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning Outcomes
- 1 What is art?
- 2 The Turner Prize: an annual farce or a celebration of creativity?
- 3 Art works and their effects
- 4 The relationship between effects and techniques
- 5 Colour
- 5.1 Introduction
- 5.2 Question 1: Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used?
- 5.3 Question 2: Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other?
- 5.4 Question 3: Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa?
- 5.5 Question 4: Are the colours largely bright or dull?
- 5.6 Question 5: In what way is dark and light colour used?
- 5.7 Comparing art works
- 6 Medium
- 7 Composition
- 8 Meaning and interpretation
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Making sense of art history
In this unit you'll explore a further arts discipline – art history. But why study art history? Look around you, it's likely that wherever you are you'll be able to see some images – for example, on posters, magazine covers or food packaging. It's also likely that many of these images will be intended to have some sort of effect on you. For example, an image on a cereal packet might be intended to persuade you that eating the product will make you healthy, whereas the images on the front page of a magazine will be chosen to encourage you to read on. While you won't be studying cereal packets and magazine covers in this unit, you will be exploring the power of images via a study of contemporary art from the 1980s onwards.
The Study Diamond
The Study Diamond represents an approach to analysing and interpreting texts such as poems, works of art, pieces of music and works of literature. When used methodically, the Study Diamond provides a reliable and reusable formula for arriving at well-argued conclusions when interpreting a particular work.
There are four points to the Study Diamond:
You will apply the Study Diamond to the analysis of art works as well as developing your study skills. Both the activities and the text in this unit are designed to be worked on while you look closely at the art works.
Plate 1: Turner prize artists
Rather than giving a historical overview of art, as might be suggested by the term ‘art history’, we'll concentrate on looking at art produced by artists nominated for the Turner Prize. It's worth pointing out that while we're concentrating on art produced since the 1980s, you can apply the same techniques that you will learn here to the study of any art work, from any period.
The Turner Prize is awarded each year to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to art in Britain during the previous twelve months. I've chosen to concentrate on the Turner Prize because I believe that many of the art works nominated for it have important things to say about the times in which we are living. The art works that you'll encounter here are visually diverse, ranging from pickled cows to paintings made with elephant dung and glitter. Some are beautiful, some are shocking and many might appear on first sight to be very confusing. I can't predict whether you'll like all (or, indeed any) of them, but I hope that by the end of this free course you'll agree that contemporary art can be extremely thought-provoking. Taking the time to look beyond the immediate appearance of an art work to consider what the artist might be trying to say can be immensely rewarding.
This unit is an adapted extract from Y180 Making sense of the Arts, a course which is no longer taught by The Open University, but which was part of our Openings Programme which has been replaced by our Access modules. This unit gives a good idea of the level of study on these modules.
If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this.
If you are new to Higher Education you may want to consider our Access module Y031 Arts and languages.
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free History & The Arts courses or view the range of currently available OU History & The Arts courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Friday, 6th January 2012
Last updated on: Monday, 17th March 2014
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