Choose one artwork and spend 15 minutes looking at it. Before all 5 of us start executing this idea, each one points out on the art fair’s map the gallery where one will go to watch an artwork.
My decision was arbitrary. I didn’t know the gallery, and I can’t remember from my earlier visit what kind of art is present there. When I walk into the gallery’s stand I don’t take the time to look around but go straight to the first work hanging on a wall. It’s near the gallerist table. As soon I stand still in front of the work I set the timer for 15 minutes.
I start looking at the artwork. What do I see? It takes a while to get my concentration into the activity of seeing. I’m distracted by the thought that I’m going to stand here for 15 minutes and that I might get noticed. An art fair is not a museum. In a museum one can spend time in front of a work without being noticed too much. Here it is unusual. My presence could be understood to be a provocative gesture. Could I be recognized as an art collector or a curator? If not, what could be my interest in spending such an amount of time this way?
I redirect my focus back on the artwork. Then the doubt comes in. Was this a good choice? Wouldn’t I rather spend time on a different artwork? Will this become a rewarding experience? Is it about having a rewarding experience? What does rewarding here mean? Is it rewarding if I discover something that I wouldn’t have known if instead I had taken a quick look at it?
I tell myself that time is the important factor, no matter what I’m looking at. There is always an opportunity to discover a deeper meaning or something unexpected to discover, as long one takes time for something. I am looking at a canvas hanging in a standing position with blue and pink paint. The blue is the first layer covering the whole canvas. The pink’s arbitrary brushstrokes are the second layer. When I take a closer look the pink strokes are vertical and seem to be carelessly placed. Here and there they overlap one another. I get the impression that the painting doesn’t want to be something other than paint on a canvas. I try to think figurative. I see a sky at sunset and pink clouds. I can’t stay long with this in my imagination. The painting doesn’t want me to make it into something other than a canvas with blue and pink paint.
What do I know of painting in general? Maybe I haven’t enough knowledge to read such a work. It worries me. I go for a different strategy. What do the colors mean to me? The pink reminds me of my early teenage period, where I was allowed to paint my own bedroom. I was warned to use subtle colors. The pink in my room was an ugly color, just like this pink. But the blue in the canvas is worse. Baby blue. I fail in my attempt to appreciate the work. It might be because I don’t know a few things: the title, whether it is part of a series, and who the artist is.
What was the artist’s intention? What if the painting is a detail of something bigger? What if the pink brushstrokes are an imitation of the artist’s studio wall? What if the painting is of a painting in its early moments of creation, when it is first being set up? Maybe I’m going too much into conceptual thinking. Why can’t it be a work that allows for brushstrokes intuitively placed? The painter taking pleasure in the action of painting.
I feel a sudden shock going through my body. For a moment I think I hear the gallerist’s voice addressing me, but it is to someone else. I wouldn’t know what to say to the gallerist but I am curious what she would say about this work. My attention is drawn to my body now. I suddenly think I’m too motionless and start shuffling my feet, change the position of my arms and move my head unnecessarily, as if I am actively browsing the painting. The alarm goes off. I turn around to see if the gallerist looks in my direction. Nothing happens, she talks with someone. Dazed I leave the stand.