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Additional Notes - Art as a Foreign Langauge

Original Article - Art as a Foreign Langauge.

Writing this article was a different experience for me. I felt like I had a lot that I wanted to express, but I wasn’t sure exactly where this is going. The fact is that whenever I hear someone question the existence of expertise in art I get annoyed. Mostly because my gut tells me that expertise in art is a thing, but I also get annoyed because I can’t really explain why I feel that way. I hope that by spilling my thoughts and feelings into this article, I succeeded in paying the respects I feel to art.

It really matters what you mean when you talk about expertise in art. people who don’t believe in expertise in art sometimes get annoyed when a so-called ‘expert’ tells them what feelings they should draw from a piece of art. Art is a personal thing and if what you are feeling towards any type of art is not wrong, then how can anyone be more right about art? I think that this is a fair point of view, but I don’t agree with it. Not anymore, A few years ago I had an experience that changed my mind about it.

I was spending some time in Amsterdam with a few friends, one of them was an art student. She got us all to go to the Van Gogh museum and she was really excited to see it. I always thought of myself as someone loves art and when I connect to art, it can really move me. But I don’t really get paintings by famous artists, I don’t see a lot in them, so I was not as excited to go. I was a bit reluctant, but my friend that insisted that we should go is real smart and knowledgeable, I figured that if anyone could make this interesting, it would be her. Also, you can’t just miss an opportunity to go to the Van Gogh museum, right?

We got there and started walking around the museum and at first, it was just a regular visit to the museum. I was looking at the paintings and didn’t really connect with them. After a while, I decided to stick to our friend who acted as a tour guide, and hear what she has to say about all the paintings. You could tell that she was excited to be there, and she had something to say about each piece. Some of the pieces she knew better and so could tell us about the background and context of them, about the styles and artistic properties that they displayed.

Once she gave me more information about each painting, I was finding that I wasn’t simply looking at paintings anymore, but that each painting was like a whole world. Until that point, they were just a variety of colors and shapes, but suddenly they had a meaning. To use the metaphor from the article, my ‘tour-guide’ friend was interpreting the story that was told by the paintings in a language I don’t speak. I found it so much easier to connect to the paintings. Until that moment, they failed to move me, and in my mind, that means that the art kind of failed. But from that moment onwards, I was captivated by the all the emotions that the paintings goaded in me, for the first time. I know it seems elementary, but I simply never experienced this and it unexpectedly changed my appreciation of art to this day.

I read a few interesting papers when reading about art and thinking of what I wanted to say. I found a few very interesting pieces by Helmut Leder. I know that they were not written to be entertaining, clickbaity articles, but I think that anyone who has an interest in art and its appreciation may find them interesting. I’ll mention a couple that I think are worth at least a glance.

  • What makes an art expert? Emotion and evaluation in art appreciation - Link - Helmut Leder, Gernot Gerger, David Brieber, Norbert Schwartz - Taylor&Francis online.

  • Art expertise: a study of concepts and conceptual spaces - Link - M. Dorothee Augustin, Helmut Leder - Psychology Science.