Today, what I’d intended to be a quick fifteen-minute run to grab groceries turned into an hour spent staring at paintings in a local art exhibit at the mall.
My city doesn’t have an art museum, so exhibits like these are a treat. I was on my way out to catch a ride home, but stumbled on the art pieces taking up the middle atrium of Robinson’s. I thought I would look at one painting and then leave, but apparently, that didn’t happen.
The piece that I spent the most time studying was “11th Hour Exodus,” which incidentally, was painted by someone I knew in highschool. It depicted a bright yellow, half-open book in the middle of drab crumpled newspaper, and I loved, loved, loved, discovering the little, unobtrusive elements in the painting. A pocket watch half tucked away near the bottom. Bullet shell casings spilling out of the pages. The minuscule words on the pages, which seemed insignificant, but there had to be a reason the artist put those words there, so I studied them intensely. I wanted to know the reason they were there. I wanted to know how they all fit together, all these elements in plain sight, all telling secret stories, unraveling within one another until they collided into one burst of insight. One truth.
What is the artist trying to say? Why did they choose this specific way to say it?
Studying paintings, or art in general, often feels like a secret conversation with the artist, trying to discover what they’re trying to convey beyond the obvious. I like when a piece makes you stop and think…and feel. I could get lost for hours in the brush strokes, looking for clues to the artist’s state of mind, figuring out exactly what they’re trying to express, trying to feel how they felt.
This might probably be the best place to say I am not an expert painter, or art critic. I have little to no formal knowledge of art, and any attempt to engage in the visual arts is often in the interest of self-expression, or perhaps the occasional adventurous sense of “Hey, colors are fun; let’s splatter this all over a blank page with our fingers like I’m three again!”
But whether I’m walking through a local exhibit in my city, or ogling at ancient designs in the Ayala Museum in the capital, I love how studying a piece of art compels you to reflect on what’s beyond the surface. Everything you think you see is right there, often easily dismissed. It takes an effort to really understand the message.
It’s fascinating–and also sort of beautiful–how some things, some truths, can be so obvious and yet so hidden at the same time.
There was a piece called “Diretso Lang,” which in English translates to “Straight ahead.” It was a painting, mostly deep curves etched into the brown on a canvass, with the occasional green streaks and beige splatters. There was a very rustic feel to the piece, an uncertainty (almost fear) about it, but also a strong sense of wanting to move forward. Straight ahead.
Go straight ahead.
Maybe it’s trying to tell me something.