After reading about observation in “How to Look at a Painting” and some comments by Hamish Keith in “The Big Picture” I decided to try a little experiment with art and my children*. A2 is 2 1/2 years old and I sat down with her and looked at some art pictures to see her reactions. The book I grabbed from the shelf was “New Zealand Painting” by Michael Dunn.
It was immediately obvious that she looked for the familiar in the paintings and viewed them through her own meaning and experience. Examples:
Pg 4. “A view of a part of the Town of Wellington” Charles Heaphy. A2 immediately related this to some opening sepia toned scenes of London in the Disney movie “Pocahontas” (don’t judge – please!) which is her favourite just now. The sail boats were apparently also from that movie.
Pg 35 CF Goldie painting. “someone drew on the lady”
Pg 86 Rita Angus’ portrait of Betty Curnow “Grandma” (I guess there is some resemblance)
Pg 112/113 McCahon hillscapes. “the bear went over the mountain” I must explain that in her book of The Bear went over the Mountain, the “mountains” are in fact bed covers. I can see this “draped” effect in “Takaka Night and day” especially.
When something was completly different and unrecognisable to her she made her own meaning – mostly relating to the colours eg Ian Scott’s “Lattice N0. 137”
Now I think this is interesting because as adults we probably do much the same when viewing art. We look for the familiar, place our our experince and meaning on what we see and when confronted with the new and different we try to make our own sense of it.
I tried this with my 4 year old who is “the artistic one” with the following result.
ME: “A1 – Do you want to look at some paintings other people have done?”
A1: “No I want to do my own paintings”
And there is some sound logic in that as well :-)
*Disclaimer: I do NOT randomly experiment on my children. Call it an educational experience.