I consider myself rather new to the understanding and appreciation of visual art. My desire to attend exhibitions, however, started long ago, driven by curiosity and the kiasoo syndrome (not wanting to miss out). Over time, through conversations with artist friends and connoisseurs, I’ve learned that it takes time to understand and appreciate visual art, just as one would with music.
Much of what I know today comes from the high school humanities course I took from the late Mr Darwin Scales. His passion for art, music, literature, history, and philosophy was contagious. He was the reason I so wanted to see Europe at the age of 21.
On our last full day in Florence, my mother and I went to an exhibition that surely beats all others we’ve seen in the past two weeks. It reminded me of the Matisse-Picasso exhibition we had seen in the Tate Modern years ago. Both were well-curated, informative, and entertaining.
The last portrait in Florence
We did not expect “Art and Illusions” at the Palazzo Strozzi to keep us intrigued and interested for three hours. [Clearly management of expectations has a lot to do with this. Since we didn’t expect much, we were pleasantly surprised.]
We had a lot of time available on this sunny but slightly chilly day. It was our last day before heading south to Rome. It was the last museum we had planned to visit. [Exhibitions are not for the time-challenged. Less is more. I regret having rushed through Galleria dell’Academia and not had the time to sit and stare at Michelangelo’s David.]
We had not seen an exhibition like this before. [Novelty is an important factor.]
The bilingual text that accompanied each painting and exhibit was informative and clear. [This can be said of most museums, churches, and galleries that we have visited in Florence and Venice.]
The audio guide added value to the existing text. There were also musical interludes, i.e. music and illusions. [These additional things consistently supported the main theme.]
It was well-organised and divided into different relevant sections. We did not get lost. The exhibition built upon our knowledge. [As a result, we could focus on the content and not get confused or distracted.]
Most of all, the subject of art and illusions was interesting. I can think of parallels in music and acoustics, such as the way we fill in skipped notes to make a melody that otherwise would not make sense, the way we skip over false notes in our listening, the way we dismiss what we don’t want to hear. There are certainly compositional techniques that deceive the ear just as techniques of “trompe l’oeil” achieve visual illusions.
Combining visual art with live music performance
How can I apply what I’ve learned to our cross-domain initiatives at our Monument House Concert Series in Utrecht? We had launched our first exhibition at the last house concert of solo guitar from South Africa on 3rd October 2009. Although the concert was sold out in three days and a success by all accounts, I felt the need to give the exhibition more visibility.
Expand on the theme of water (as shown in the 13 polaroid images in the piano room) to coincide with a concert on the theme of water. Already a pianist has offered to play Ravel’s Jeux Deux. Our duo will play Lan Chee Lam’s Drizzle. Anybody for Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude?