Making sense of art history
Making sense of art history

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Making sense of art history

4 The relationship between effects and techniques

4.1 Introduction

Think back to Activity 4. Did you find yourself concluding that you liked or disliked any of the art works? Or even that you loved or hated them? Just as with poetry, liking or disliking something is a common first reaction to an art work; there's nothing wrong with having these feelings. It's advisable to monitor your own feelings carefully, and not to distance yourself from an art work because you're afraid you're not going to understand its meaning. As you know, an art work is often created in order to appeal to your feelings, so it would be rather odd if you ignored these. Along these lines, the 2003 Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry (see Plate 12) said:

I think it's about time that people started to bring their senses into play more and trust their bodily reactions to work – become more willing to say, ‘Wow! That is really lovely. I love that!’, rather than looking for the meaning of it all the time.

(Perry, The Guardian online, 2003)

Plate 12

Grayson Perry, Golden Ghosts, 2001, earthenware, 64 × 27 × 27 cm. (© Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.)

Having said this, for academic purposes it's also helpful to allow some reaction time after your first impression, and to think about the techniques that have achieved these effects. So pause and think about what it is about the appearance of an art work that affects you in a certain way. Consider just what the artist involved might be trying to say via this work. Then, rather than simply saying ‘this painting is really gloomy, I just don't like it’, you can say something like ‘this painting makes me feel gloomy and uneasy because of the dominant purple and green colours’. Such a statement makes a connection between the effects and techniques points of the Study Diamond and can form the basis of an argument about the possible meaning of an art work.

For now, we're going to shift our attention to the techniques point of the Study Diamond, focusing on those techniques that have been used in some of the Turner Prize-related art works that you've already encountered. This exploration of the relationship between effects and techniques will also allow you to gather some more information about The Maids and No Woman No Cry that you can use as evidence to support an interpretation of their possible meanings.

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