Interpreting Art: The Ultimate How-To Guide

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Having had more time to ourselves over the past year than ever before, and therefore more opportunities to invest in doing what we love, it comes as no surprise that searches for art-related terms have increased by +160% over the last 12 months.
With a growing interest surrounding art guides, SINGULART’s Head Curator, Marion Sailhen, provides expert tips on interpreting art, aimed at all those starting their journey, as well as people who wish to think outside of the box when it comes to their favourite pieces.

From art students to aspiring and established artists, there is no right or wrong way to interpret art, however, understanding how best to do it can help to widen your interest and spark a new-found appreciation for the art world.

The guide includes, but is not limited to, the following expert tips:

Understand the artist

One of the first places to start when considering the meaning of the artwork is to take the time to understand the artist. This should include their education and if they attended an art school, along with the residency that followed, and any exhibitions they have taken part in.

For those that are more established, their work may have been featured in local or national museums, and so looking into the specific exhibition it featured will aid in providing further context.

Think about how it makes you feel

Art that makes you feel something, whether it is a welcomed emotion or not, has achieved a greater purpose. Feel it, notice the impact it has had and use those responses to analyse what the piece might be trying to tell you.

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Understand that all interpretations are valid

One of the most important pieces of advice is to know that all of your interpretations are valid, whether you want to interpret art at a surface level or you want to dive in deeper. One of the beauties of art is that when an artist releases a new work into the creative sphere, they give up their control behind the understanding and interpretation of the piece, allowing those who view it to develop their own meanings and emotions towards it.

There is no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to creativity, whether you are the creator or the individual consuming it, and that is what helps the industry to inspire so many.

Consider the concept behind the piece


Not all of those interested in art will have a knowledge of its history, and so this can make some pieces harder to interpret. Exploring different themes that have dominated recent centuries will allow you to learn more and in turn, understand and spot different movements with ease.

Although movements are becoming less important in contemporary art, once you learn to switch out objects for ideas, you’ll be able to rework the piece over and over in your mind and experiment with different notions.

Ask questions about the artwork

To understand an artist’s creation, there is a need to ask questions about it. Start with the medium and the method; was it created by a palette knife or airbrush? Then, broaden out to the size and color, do the two go hand-in-hand?

More often than not to find your answer, you’ll need to get as close to the artwork as possible to break it down section by section.

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