Are you someone who doesn’t really know anything about contemporary art? When you look at contemporary art you think; ‘what does any of this mean?’, or ‘how is this art?’ That was me. Completely lost and oblivious to the meaning behind contemporary art. I didn’t know that contemporary art was more than just a canvas and paint. I learnt that contemporary art is really amazing minds sharing their thoughts and expressions through a form of art. This year, while working at the MCA, my perspective and knowledge of art was transformed.
it opens up another part of your brain that allows the unfamiliar to seep through and really tests your comfort zone
When I first got the job at the MCA I was thrilled, over the moon in fact, then I thought about it hard, and as most of my friends confirmed, I knew nothing about art. The job I was about to start suddenly become daunting and terrifying. And not because it was a new job or new people; but because I didn’t know how to react or feel about the most important thing about a gallery; the art! This was a world of brilliant minds and creativeness that I was about to step into and I knew nothing about it. This is possibly a feeling a lot of people go through when having a change in careers or just starting something new. But this is art, a fundamental part of growing up. How is it that I have gone through my whole life not having appreciated or explored this side of a person?
First things first, I needed to make friends. I started to go to more social things within the art world…exhibition openings, the pub; and after many laughs shared over after-work drinks, I was finally feeling accepted into this very welcoming community. By building friendships and by having conversations with different people, I became more open to ask for other’s thoughts on artworks. I felt more comfortable about sharing my own opinion. Just enough to get me thinking.
After realising that simply talking about art helps to understand and comprehend the meaning behind an artwork, I then began to asks questions and really think about how the artwork makes me feel and what questions arise that I wanted answered.
I remember taking part in a school group tour where at one point we stopped in front of Tracy Moffatt’s Invocations artworks in the MCA Collection. The students were asked to react in a way that they thought the protagonist in the artwork may feel. After everyone shared their reaction, I thought about what I got out of the paintings myself, and what I thought the protagonist might feel. My interpretation was very different to the students. Why? Was I experiencing the artworks just as they were? I talked to the artist educators taking the group and we came to the conclusion that maybe it was because the experiences I had in my life that had effected my reaction to the artwork. This was my epiphany moment when I realised everyone might have really different opinions of an artwork and that is okay. There is no one answer. I had formed my own opinion but also that I had allowed my own thoughts and experiences to affect how I felt about an artwork. This felt nice.
Throughout my journey I’ve also realised that it helps when you shut off the part of your brain that makes things feel foreign. By doing this, it opens up another part of your brain that allows the unfamiliar to seep through and really tests your comfort zone. Through doing this, I realised that it’s not necessary to like everything. It’s okay to choose a favourite style and openly enjoy only those artworks.
My last piece of advice that I gained from my time working at the MCA? When exploring contemporary art, find what works for you and what you understand, but more importantly, what interests you.