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  • Bianca Vinther

How to Appreciate Art: The Best Way. Discussing Meaning in Art & Audience Response with Lucianna Whittle

In her first appearance on The Pointless Artist Podcast a year ago, the British painter Lucianna Whittle talked to me about her relationship to painting and music, her understanding of artist block and art inspiration, and her direct, intuitive art-making process, in which she becomes a channel of  artistic creativity. In that context, Lucianna discussed the power of transformation, awareness and consciousness in the visual arts, and revealed the ultimate purpose of her life.


A deep connection and a common understanding of the art-making process led us to record a second podcast episode in October 2023, focusing on meaning in art and audience response: Do artworks have a meaning? Should they have a meaning at all? What is the meaning of an artwork? Do artworks need to be interpreted, and why? What is the current audience response like?


Read the brief summary of our talk below, and listen to our conversation on The Pointless Artist Website > PODCAST > ART TALKS > Content in Art & Audience Response with Lucianna Whittle, or on The Pointless Artist Podcast on Anchor.fm, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.



Photography of the Brighton-based painter Lucianna Whittle.
Brighton-based painter Lucianna Whittle. Courtesy of the artist.

Looking Out the Window


In an article called "Letter of Recommendation" published in The New York Times Magazine on 7 April 2016, the American actor Sam Anderson wrote:


"A real window is something that frames our fundamental lack of control. Windows are, in this sense, a powerful existential tool: a patch of the world, arbitrarily framed, from which we are physicall isolated. The only thing you can do is look. You have no influence over what you will see."

I couldn't think of a better way to begin my conversation with Lucianna about meaning in art and audience response than with the image of a „real window“. We cannot obviously control what we see when looking out a window. But what do we actually see? Do we see what our brain already knows and seeks to see in all that our eyes can meet or do we see „reality as such“?


The artworks we make are also windows, and, if your ask me, they are at least as real as „real windows“. However, our view through them is not out on „the real world“ but inward, deep into ourselves, and beyond our interior eye. And, just as we cannot control what we see when looking out a real window, we cannot control what we produce in moments of creative flow when we switch off the mind and become a channel of artistic creativity.


Does any artwork produced in moments of creative flow, without a clear end result in mind or conception of what it will become, have a specific meaning? And why should they be interpreted, if at all?



Photography of a window open towards the sea in an Italian setting.
A real window. Courtesy of Alessio Cesario.

Against a Conceptualisation of Art


Lucianna’s paintings have no specific content or meaning. Their only purpose is to create and enable an experience. To open a dialogue, not an interogation. 


I really like the idea that the art speaks in a way that goes beyond language and that it has itw own meaning, and that that can be something as quite alive and quite fresh and different with each viewer.“ (Lucianna Whittle)

How would she describe her artworks best? As paintings that just are about being; that have arrived, have landed. Timeless and intrinsic. Shaping and not imposing. Speaking a language of their own and opening up the view towards a realm of infinite possibilities.


My paintings come from a deliberately non-verbal place that is still as much as an evolved and developed language.“ (Lucianna Whittle)

Listen to my conversation with Lucianna about meaning in art and audience response, and find out more about her artworks and the exprience they enable – an intuitive understanding, a connection with their universe of colour and shapes beyond the realm of the mind, and so much more.



Abstract oil painting on Arches huilte paper by the British artist Lucianna Whittle.
"Tenderness", Oil on Arches Huile paper by Lucianna Whittle. Courtesy of the artist.

Meaning in Art?

About interpretation of artworks as a form of control


Interpretation is a form of control we exercise over the artworks. It is a necessity of the brain, an action of the mind in constant search for answers and solutions. Interpretation of artworks can be patronising and stifling. It has the power to shrink the size of the window and narrow down the view.


As Susan Sontag wrote in her 1964 masterwork „Against Interpretation“ that Lucianna and I used as manifesto against treating artworks as „content“ or "meaning" in our conversation:


Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world — in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings.”

The best way to appreciate artworks


Yes, you guessed it. The best way to appreciate art is with your heart with the heart that sees and recognises, not with the mind that only looks, observes, and searches.


If you want to learn more about the difference between seeing, observing, and looking, as well as about how to create art and to understand artworks with your heart, read my blog posts: "The Key Difference Between Look, Observe, and See in Art" and "How to create art with your heart: a 5-step daily ritual".


Artworks are windows to something much deeper and higher. Let’s not crush their potential and destroy their magic. Let’s not reduce their wonder but increase their mystery, just like one of the leading Romanian poets of the 20th century nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1956, Lucian Blaga, wrote in one of his early poems published 1916 and called „The aura of this earth must not be extinguished“ (published in English translation in Poems of Light in 2022):


"The aura of this earth must not be extinguished:
let me not trample through the mysteries
I meet on my path, stifle the secrets,
of flowers, eyes, lips, graves
with my reason.

Mysterious wonders, secrets
hidden in the profound depths of darkness
are extinguished by the glare
of those who would reveal them
with their reason.

As the gaze of the moon traces
the shadows of the enigma enhances,
the mystery of darkening horizons,
their cold secret depths are etched
with my light.

The enigma, the secret, the mystery
grow under the scrutinity of my gaze
the flowers, the eyes, the lips, the graves
that I must meet and greet equally
with my love."

Via The Pointless Artist Blog and Podcast, I support the creative energy of life and the artists who contribute to transforming this world into a freer, kinder, more inclusive, caring, transparent, and compassionate place to live. I firmly believe in the passion for art, the importance of sharing knowledge and experiences, and the power of personal stories to bring us together.


Thank you for reading this blog post till the end. If you’ve got something to add, please comment on this blog post below, drop me an e-mail, or pm me on Instagram @the_pointless_artist. I'd love to hear from you!

 

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Recognise your pointlessness and keep creating!


From Denmark with love,


Bianca Vinther

 

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