On the Joy of Seeing the Real Thing

There is nothing quite like standing in front of an original work of art.  You can look at reproductions, in books or on postcards, as prints or on the internet.  But no matter how good the reproduction it can never quite capture the spirit or beauty of the original.

That is why I love to visit galleries.  This week I went to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.  It is relatively small compared to some other provincial art galleries;  the art is housed on three or four floors in two towers on either side of a courtyard.  Size is not related to quality, however – it has in its galleries work that is rich in colour and in ideas, and enough to bring me back to revisit some images and seek out others for the first time.  In any case, art is best appreciated in smaller doses.

This visit I stayed longer than I planned.   I joined one of the tours that offered each day, and found that walking through a collection with someone who knows and loves it brings many more facets of the works to life.  There are back stories to hear, context to learn about and views to exchange.  Particularly when the group is small.

But in the end it is all about being able to see the art.  About being able to look at paintings and statues from far away and close up, seeing the illusions and the way they are created.  About seeing the glow of light in a Lawren Harris painting, or the richness of a Joshua Reynolds portrait; the amazing way Mary Pratt lights up her canvas, or the cooler beauty of a work by Tom Forrestall.  It is about being able to go back, and see more.

This is why I hope that you have lots of opportunity to do as I like to, to see the real works of art, up close and personal, and take the time to wonder about the artist and why they created what they did.  And that you will share the pleasures of seeing the real thing with many others.

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2 responses to “On the Joy of Seeing the Real Thing

  1. margaret
    i, too, share the visceral thrill of coming into contact with original works of art (and, as you said, standing back is part of it as well). i am moved by what i call “the Mark of the Hand” – seeing the actual object that a human has labored over and into, has contemplated, been confounded by and finally wrestled into existence. posters, postcards, books of reproductions are lovely, convenient, and economical ways to own and admire art in our homes but it is a cellular and sensual experience to witness texture and color of a painting or the grain of a black and white photograph in the flesh.
    for this same reason, live performance – music, dancing, theater – has an enduring appeal that reawakens the senses and makes me feel more alive.
    thanks, as always, for recording your thoughts. xo lori B

  2. One of the best things about standing in front of an actual work of art is the ability to see the small details that don’t always come through in prints or other images of it. In the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is a painting that looks as if there was a net embedded in it or painted across it. But seen up close, you realize that the artist has created that impression of a net in a number of different ways. Which makes you rethink your first impressions…

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