It is said that imagination is the most powerful tool humans have.
You’ve got the Power!
We have touched imagination several times already while talking about brainstorming — but these were mostly motivational statements. Motivation is important, and you will find more of it here. However, the main purpose of this chapter is to suggest and discuss several practical methods which will give you the needed boost to launch your independent interpretation session. These methods prove that using your imagination is a skill that can be acquired and implemented by anyone willing to put in the time and thought. Considering you already have a bank of ideas to work with generated during brainstorming, you are off for a good start.
I would also like to encourage you to develop your own techniques. Nothing here is written in stone. I will try to reveal how I arrive at these methods, and hopefully outline the blueprint for the whole process — to offer the fishing rod along with some fish. However, when dealing with imagination, there are always the unknowables of inspiration, epiphanies, meditation induced revelations and such and sundry of mental and spiritual paths. Once again, I would suggest not to lock on a single known method and always leave room for… your imagination to work the wonders.
It’s Your Show
One of the crucial — for all of us — notions to internalize declares that when we interpret a work of art it doesn’t matter, at this stage, what we think the artist meant to express or convey. There is a widespread and generally accepted principle that once a work of art leaves the studio, once it is out there, it is yours to interpret any way you like. This is a heavy burden to take off of your mind; your imagination would soar like an air balloon after jettisoning some ballast.
Everything goes. Too many good ideas get stifled on the altar of “high” and “low” brow differentiations. There is no high and there is no low — there are only good arguments, based on good logic and supported by actual examples. Every work of art can be spun to suit your ideas, as long as you arrive at the conclusion via a series of sensible claims.
Some theories suppose that the artist’s personal biography is tightly linked with his artwork; psychoanalysis would be one such theory. However, there are also opposite views, which position works of art independently of the creator’s persona, making emphasis on the piece itself rather than on surrounding trivia. In my opinion, you do not have to adhere to neither of the trends: just be aware that they exist, and use either, when needed, for your purposes. Perhaps this is an intellectual opportunism, but then, art interpretation is an inherently opportunistic activity.
Even if the artist offers a ready made interpretation, his or her ideas cannot determine what the art piece means for you. The author does not own other people’s thoughts on his own creation and everyone has the right to interpret it. This leads, once again to incredible freedom.
In many ways, imagination is all about the possibilities. The painting you see in front you was the arriving point for the artist, but it is one of departure for you. Paradoxically, our ignorance of the private process of painting puts us into an advantageous position. Even if you arrive at the same conclusions about the piece, you may choose a different route — and it is the route that matters, as it describes your own analytical interpretative process — something both an artist and an instructor would want and demand to see.
Therefore, “what could have been” and, subsequently, “what should have been” will be the focus of the next parts of this chapter. We will learn techniques to engage in a battle of minds and creative thought with the artist and her work, with the clear objective to win — to formulate concepts and theories and impose them on the work of art as if they were intended by the artist herself. We will learn to decipher and interpret art with the same tool the artist used to make it — imagination.
Stay tuned for Part 2!