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How do we ‘look’ at art?

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This post written by Resident Artist - Dorothy Berry-Lound

Dorothy is 1stAngel Arts Magazine’s Resident Artist – April 2015
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In this series of articles I am going to explore how we look at art, the part that colour plays in our lives and how art can contribute to health and well being.  This first article considers how we ‘look’ at art.

To begin with I want to ask you to consider – what part of our body do we use when look at a piece of art? If I asked that question most people would look at me as if I was mad (which is a distinct possibility) and respond ‘with our eyes’ of course!

Kitten Flowers
Kitten Flowers

In actual fact we don’t see the world through our eyeballs at all – the light shines through the retina and sends projections to groups of neurons in the occipital lobe where visual information is interpreted.  Different groups of neurons view components such as colour, orientation, shape, light, dark and shades in-between and facial-recognition.  Then other parts of the brain kick in to sift through your memories and that tells you what you are seeing, whether that is a kitten in a flower pot or a dead tree!

Venice ripples
Venice Ripples

As we get older we don’t see many things as unique because when we look at something our mind will raise memories of what the piece of art reminds us of.  This means some artwork gets dismissed without a glance because it is, to our mind at least, ‘same old’.  Some images will remind us of a bad experience, some of good.  So, when we look at a picture, memories and emotions also come into play and affect how we perceive what we are viewing.  So, for example, if you were frightened by a clown as a child you may still be freaked out when you see one as an adult.  If something bad happened to you in a room with a red rose in it, you may find seeing a red rose triggers the memories and emotions of what happened and you are repelled by the image – which makes you very much the odd one out for Valentine’s Day.  So, we also use our memories and emotions when looking at a piece of art, though a lot of this may be at a subconscious level.

But there is also another part of our body that we use when we look at a piece of art.  The whole of our physical body is light sensitive and the electromagnetic field which surrounds us, which is called the aura, is constantly filled with vibrating colours that change according to our state of health or mental well-being and respond to what we come into contact with.  Colour affects the whole person – that is the basis for colour therapy which involves treating a person with colour rays in order to bring their body back into balance.  When we are stressed, tired or ill we respond to colours in a different way to when we feel well, are calm or have been meditating.  So, under certain conditions individual colours will be particularly appealing to us and attract us to a piece of art.  On another day we might not even glance at that image.

Ben's Angel
Ben’s Angel

When you watch someone walking around a gallery you often see what I call the ‘gallery walk’, a slow walk past all the images. This is heart wrenching for an artist when the person just glances at a piece and moves on. Until they come to a stop in front of an image and stare for ages at it.  It could be the subject, the composition, the unusual treatment of an image or the colour – or a combination of all of these.  Whatever it is, you can bet the viewer will be looking at the art with more than just their eyes.

New Artwork by Dorothy Berry-Lound

New Artwork by Dorothy Berry-Lound

A wonderful Christmas Greeting Card with the written greeting 'Love is the best gift for Christmas'. The design includes hearts,a heart being the symbol for love, a bird and a little home, symbol of contentment. The design has a background of shades ... 
This is a view of people taking a stroll along the upper promenade at the seaside in Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. Showing some of the Victorian features, including metal railings, looking down the promenade we see people walking and edge of market st... 
Here we look down the promenade that runs along the edge of the beach at the coastal resort of Eastbourne in Sussex, UK. Few people are sitting on the beach as it is a sunny, but very windy, day. There is an upper promenade (esplanade) that follows t... 
A sunny day and a promenade market at Eastbourne in Sussex, UK is drawing the crowds. The market affords people the opportunity to walk in the sunshine along the scenic promenade with wonderful views of the beach, sea and pier (not shown in this shot... 
A view towards the elegant buildings on the seafront at Eastbourne in Sussex, UK. We look across the shingle and sand beach, past the few people sitting enjoying the sunshine towards the main promenade and road which runs along in front of these buil... 
A view from the seaside at Eastbourne in Sussex, UK, looking across the shingle and sand beach and the people enjoying their time at the sea towards Eastbourne Pier. A seagull flies overhead. The pier is a Victorian Grade II listed building, a pleasu... 
This image of Eastbourne Pier shows a group of people having fun playing with seagulls on Eastbourne Pier. They are feeding the seagulls in an attempt to photograph them. Eastbourne Pier in East Sussex, UK, is a Victorian, Grade II listed building th... 
Walking on the boardwalk at Eastbourne Pier in East Sussex, UK on a bright sunny day several things strike you. The contrast with the light and shadow, enhanced by the use of white paint on all of the buildings. This contrasts with the gorgeous blue ... 
A sunny day on Eastbourne Pier, a Victorian Grade II listed pleasure pier in Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. Here is a scene of people sitting enjoying the sunshine, eating and drinking, sitting on either side of this wonderful piece of blue Victorian m... 
The overwhelming impression of Eastbourne Pier in East Sussex, UK, is of the distinctive blue colour of all the metal work contrasting with the white of the main structure. Here we see a seating area at the side of the pier with picnic tables and the... 
A view towards the main structure at the end of Eastbourne Pier, showing the blue metallic structure with gold highlights. A door is open, encouraging us to enter the Victorian Tea Room for a traditional English afternoon tea. Above the sign, you can... 
The original Victorian structure of Eastbourne Pier in East Sussex, UK, has seen a lot of damage, particularly from fires. The pier was opened in the late 1870s and is a Grade II listed building. Here we see the top of the main structure at the end o... 
A view of the end section of Eastbourne Pier in East Sussex, UK on a dreamy, sunny day. Eastbourne Pier is a pleasure pier that is a Grade II* listed building opened in the late 1870s. It has had its fair share of excitement - other than the fun fair... 
Imagine a world with no colour and no sun. Do sunflowers grow there' Let's imagine for a moment they do. Their beautiful heads will still raise towards an unknown light but there would be no yellow, sunny, brightness to the flower. But is it still be... 
A close up of parts of sunflowers, slightly abstracted. Sunflowers lift your spirits with their bright yellow/orange faces, always turned towards the sunrise. This is a bright cheery piece that would work well in a kitchen or communal area. 

Dorothy Berry-Lound

I promote life, work and energy balance through my art, poetry and writing. I specialise in photo painting –using my own photographs and using digital software techniques to develop the story of the images further with colours and textures. I was awarded Best Photopainter 2015 by CQ Magazine.Promoting the use of art for healing is an important focus for my artwork and I have developed a range of healing art and colour harmony images. The pieces I create always have a story, a message I am trying to get across or imagery to make you stop and think.

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