When you think of an Art Gallery, what images are conjured in your mind? A white washed, spacious room filled with hushed tones and knowing whispers? Perhaps a little classical music emanating from the background, huddles of smartly dressed folk discussing the composition and hidden meaning behind each piece?
Whatever the vision, its true to say that the humble art gallery – a building dedicated to embracing art and showcasing artists – has become something of a foreign world to the general public. When asked how many galleries or exhibitions friends of mine visit, the number (much to my dismay) is startlingly few. The consensus seems to be that galleries are becoming unfriendly, unfamiliar and unwelcoming to the passer by.. rather pitching themselves to a lofty few who, champagne in hand, speak of the avant garde nature of the pieces, of linear or neo expressionism and the emergence of the artist as one of the great idiosyncratic talents of contemporary art which, (oh to our delight!) sits starkly juxtaposed with the nearby turn of the century works. *Sigh* My heart sinks when I think that galleries (thought I must stress not all galleries) have lost the interest and love of a large portion of the public. That said, there has recently been a movement in my home city of Swansea to promote art by means of edgy, towering banners strewn across buildings. Snappy slogans pushing its importance and advertising the latest exhibitions in and around the city centre. But is it working? Are the slogans enough to get the numbers through the doors? Enough to inspire anyone to buy originals or prints of the art they love?
Art is so important that everyone should feel motivated to visit their local gallery. I’m fortunate enough to know some fabulous galleries across South Wales and to have exhibited in many of them. Relaxed and bright environments that welcome the nervous window shopper with open and unpretentious arms. Just like a museum, the work is there to behold, to inspire us and to maybe, just maybe, make us love it enough to buy it.. but this is by no means a pressure set upon anyone who steps foot inside. We may not all be able to afford the sometimes hefty price tags but that shouldn’t stop us from wandering around it’s walls, marvelling at the talent. What’s more, galleries should be a place that you feel you’d like to take your children to. Don’t get me wrong, like anywhere else children need to be well behaved so as to not damage any of the work, but they also need to experience art firsthand. Don’t attempt to baffle them or each other with complex theories or in depth descriptions of the artists thought process.. start simply by deciding whether or not you like a piece. Remember, it’s just as fine to dislike something as it is to love a painting. Then decide why it is you love or hate it. How does it make you feel? What do you think off the colours? What does it remind you of? You could even discuss what you think the artists were trying to say by painting the pieces, but please, PLEASE don’t get caught up in the la dee dah business of trying to sound like a professional art critic. Often the pleasure of standing in front of art is lost by too much fuss and contemplation. Keep it simple and remember that for most artists, all we want you to do is look, love and maybe be inspired to own a piece yourself.
Now get yourself to your local gallery, walk in boldly and be part of the varied and fabulously inspiring movement of art that this country is home to. Good luck! x