Posts Tagged ‘art’

Google brings Masterpieces online – the google art project

March 12, 2011

google art project

The insatiable, and mostly inspiring, efforts of never-evil Google to contain all the world on a 14-inch screen took another giant leap forward with the unveiling of the Google Art Project. Working with 17 of the world’s leading galleries and museums – from MoMA in New York to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, from the Hermitage in St Petersburg to London’s National Gallery and Tate – the project takes the corporation’s street-view technology behind closed doors. It allows you not only to wander, at the touch of a mouse, the corridors and halls that contain many of the greatest masterpieces ever made, but also to view some of those paintings in finer detail than if you were standing in front of them.

The sharp focus is made possible by 14bn pixel photography that brings the most delicate brush strokes into microscopic relief. So far, this headline-grabbing technology is restricted to one painting per gallery – Holbein’s The Ambassadors is the National’s mesmerising example, Van Gogh’s Starry Night is MoMA’s – but it seems inevitable that it will eventually illuminate far more of the collections.

The almost magical potential resource raises many questions, not the least of which is whether viewing online will ever be a substitute for the real thing. (Along with the not-insignificant supplementaries: if it is, what effect will this have on gallery attendance and on our idea of art?)

After spending a few hours on the site (yet another new way of digressing on a screen), the answer to the first part feels like a qualified no. Looking at a painting on screen, however vivid the detail, is wholly different in kind from standing in front of it. Though there is genuine wonder in the backlit clarity of the images – in Bellini’s St Francis in the Desert from the Frick Collection in New York, for example, you can make out the artist’s fingerprints in the surface of the paint – as with any reproduction, what is lost is a sense of the painting as a physical object, as a little framed force field.

Mostly absent too, therefore, is that uncanny sense of communion that great paintings sometimes provide, the feeling that you are in the human presence of something that can talk to you directly across time and space; one element of that latter feeling undoubtedly derives from the sense of effort that brought you in front of the painting in the first place (the closest many of us get to pilgrimage).

You look at the on-screen pictures, as a result, with a somewhat more academic than emotional eye. It’s not a reductive experience (how could this extraordinary level of free access to some of the world’s most enduring images ever be that?), but neither is it the same thing, quite.

Despite this reservation, Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, was probably right when he claimed the Google project as “the first global art collection” and one which gives us the clearest sense yet of “the digital future for museums”.

There was also, from Serota, inevitable talk of the website bringing “communities of like-minded visitors together to connect in ways that aren’t always possible in the gallery”, which I suppose means that visitors to the site will be able to share responses to particular paintings in a way they might feel reluctant to do while standing next to a stranger in front of a Botticelli.

The gallery directors involved in the project are of course confident that the online versions of their collections will extend curiosity rather than satisfying it; that the art project will act as an advertisement for those who can get to the galleries.

One can only assume that the museums not involved – the Louvre in Paris and the Prado in Madrid, for example – are less sure of that equation. As always, with the digitisation of culture, the answer will not be long in coming.

Source: The Guardian

The Google Art Project

Appreciating abstract art

November 21, 2009

Composition VII, Kandinsky (1913) - Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

On one of my regular gallery visits, I noticed a man staring at a painting and tilting his head from side to side to make sure he was seeing the painting the right way. He then looked at me, smirked, shrugged and moved on to the next piece, as if wishing me luck understanding the painting. 

I admit comprehending abstract art does pose some difficulties to the viewer in appreciating it. The main lament on abstracts is that there is no discernable subject and therefore fails to communicate with the viewer. But this does not mean that abstract art is meaningless doodle, it’s just that one has to move away from the conventional idea of a painting – an image of something or somebody; an imitation of the real world. Understanding the idea behind abstract artworks helps one appreciate a painting for what it actually is – colour, surface, shapes and emotions on canvas.

Everyone can learn to appreciate abstract art if one knows the general objective of abstract art. Let’s start with defining abstract art: Abstract paintings primarily emphasize lines, colours, forms and surfaces in relationship to one another. This means, abstract artists believe that one does not need a definite conventional subject to create art but the colours, lines, geometrical shapes are in themselves the subject.

The general opinion that, there is more to abstract art than meets the eye is true from the perspective of an artist. Every artist’s work is influenced by his immediate surroundings, his experiences and his emotions. The complexity for the artist comes from the fact that he needs to reflect this situation onto the canvas effectively so that the final artwork stirs emotions in the viewer.

On the other hand the viewer is not expected to understand the artist’s intentions. This is practically impossible, unless one talks to the artist (which by the way is true for all kinds of art). The viewer fundamentally needs to stop trying to figure out ‘What’ it is and concentrate on ‘How’ it makes you feel. It is however critical is to switch off the right brain (logic thinking) and let the mind wander; you will see the painting talking to you. It may take sometime but keep staring.

The first abstract art was created by the modern Russian artist, Kandinsky in 1910. The creation of abstract art was accidental. The story goes that Kandinsky returned to his studio one evening and in the twilight he saw his unfinished painting propped up on an easel. From the angle he was standing at, combined with the twilight; he saw an arrangement of bright colour patches, which he thought was extremely beautiful. This realization that colours can bring out emotions irrespective of content was the beginning of Abstract Art.

This was a radical turn of events in Art History. Till then colour was just a medium to portray a subject but with the invention of Abstract art, artists began to use ‘colour’ as the ‘subject’ itself. Theo van Doesburg said ‘his art has no significance other than itself’ and stated that “nothing is more real than a line, a colour, a surface.”

To sum up, do not try to find figurative objects or meanings in abstract art. There maybe none, as the subject is the ‘colourful paint, the crooked line or the triangular shape’ arranged aesthetically to provide viewing pleasure.

Here’s an example of Abstract Art:

RB Murari, 2009, Monsoon Canvas Gallery

The painting is nothing but the glorious and harmonious intermingling of yellow, green and red. The red, yellow and green are the protagonists on a stage of somber brown. The artist has also introduced a measure of rivalry among the colours, at certain parts of the painting the yellow is dominant and at others the red. The layers of paint also bring out the tussle between the colours. This is a good example of how “the colour” is the main and only subject of the painting.