Art is an expression of the artist – an artist simply trying to convey a message. But often people complain about not being able to understand art. But that is the thing about art; it can have many meanings. What matters to you is the meaning you are able to find in it and how you connect to it.
Art is often seen as this complex and indecipherable piece of work. But what the artist is trying to say is one thing as opposed to what you can understand from it. It can be a straightforward social message or just a reflection of his feelings. There are many ways for us to be able to understand art.
In my opinion, the best way to learn something is by doing it or experiencing it. Similarly, it is possible to use this principle of experiential learning to better interpret art. Use activities to understand art! Activities can be anything right from simply discussing an artwork with a peer or can be some kind of exercise involving the artwork.
Apart from being able to better understand an artwork, learning art through activities have more benefits. One of the most common one is helping finetune one’s observational skills. The more time you spend observing an artwork, the more details you will notice and the easy it will be to interpret the work.
Often understanding art through activities requires discussion or working with someone and this aids collaboration – something we all need because we collaborate with other people in this world on a daily basis. Activities also can help us be better at articulating our observations since we would be required to efficiently convey what we see. Activities might be at the level of thought, speech, kinesthetics or touch. Here’s a simple activity you can do with the work Guernica by Picasso.
This activity can be divided into two parts. The first step of the activity is to observe the artwork and make a list of the various elements in the artwork like the woman holding the dead child in the far left of the painting. The second part of the activity is to pick any one element and create a story revolving around that element in the context of the Spanish Civil War.
Observe the artwork for 120 seconds while simultaneously creating a list of the elements you see in the painting. Pick any one element a write a story with that element as the main character and the context being the Spanish Civil War. Read ahead once you’re done.
The first part should help you carefully notice the painting and be able to dismantle each element in a painting with a lot of chaos. This will help them better understand the real situation that is depicted in the painting. The second goal is related to the second part of the activity. Weaving a story using the characters from the painting in the context of the situation (Spanish Civil War and German bombing of the city of Basque) on which the actual painting is based will help you understand the process of the artist better by adding to it. It will help you find meaning in the painting. It will also help you comprehend how society can affect art and vice versa.