Monday, December 20, 2010

Book: How to look at a painting

I stumbled upon this book in the Monash Library last week. It is called "How to look at a painting," by Justin Paton. I borrowed this to read because as a photographer I am keen to know how other people view a painting or a photograph. This book is a delight to read because the writer is passionate about art, unpretentious in his opinions, and articulate in the way he writes.

This is what Paton says about how to be looked at by a painting: "When something is puzzling or beyond belief, what we most want to do is look. And often, when we look hard enough, it can feel as though we're the ones being scrutinized. Looking at paintings is never more memorable than when one looks right back at you."

Here is how Paton describes viewing art in Venice: "What's lovely and slightly absurd about looking for art in Venice is that Venice is all art and artfulness, from its shining spires to its waterlogged toes. You're heading for the museum, but the city is a museum. You're looking for paintings, but every patch of crumbling plaster looks good enough to frame."

(Written on the back cover, Paton is an art writer from New Zealand, presently a senior curator at Christchurch Art Gallery, and a frequent commentator on art on radio and television)

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