Read All About It
This may seem like a very obvious point, but if you are struggling to interpret a piece look for some clues. Usually the piece of art will have some written label of interpretation beside it, so always look and think about this. Sometimes it will just have a title, but this will often help to create context for the piece and to make it easier to start thinking about just how to read it. Even a date can help you to realize the context of the period of time that the art was created.
If you are still none the wiser, see if there is anyone in the gallery who can help you. Often you can start a conversation with a stranger and ask them their take on the artwork. Gallery staff can also be very knowledgeable – they are there to help you, so ask when you are stuck.
There May Not Be an Answer
You could be looking for an answer which very simply isn’t there. Sometimes the artist has no idea themselves. Or did know when they created the piece, but has simply forgotten. Artists are human after all. Ellsworth Kelly has confessed that he could not remember what the meaning was behind his “Chatham Series.” If the person who created the piece is having difficulty with its meaning you really should give yourself a break!
There is sometimes a lot of pretension surrounding the interpretation of abstract art. This can make it an inaccessible art form if you allow yourself to feel inadequate in being able interpret abstract art. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by those who you feel have more knowledge than you do. Abstract art is for everyone – not an exclusive few. Allow yourself to accept that there simply may not be an answer at all.
You Do Not Have to Like It All
This goes along with the pressure to find the answer. You may find that you simply do not enjoy the piece. There is no rule which says that you have to like everything that you see. What one person enjoys in a piece may be something which another person finds completely unappealing. Do not allow yourself to force yourself to like something just because that is the general view. That is not the aim of any work of art.
Remember that just saying that you are not enjoying a piece of art does not mean that you don’t understand it. Sometimes you may feel pressured into expressing a liking for a particular abstract art piece because you are surrounded by people who are expressing their positive feelings for it. Always be respectful. By that we mean don’t stand there and say the often heard phrase “my two-year-old could have done that.” Think about it. They really couldn’t. Just remember it is fine not to like something. Each person has their own taste.
Perseverance Pays Off
The more that you learn about abstract art, and the more time that you take to actually study this type of work, the better that you will get in reading abstract art pieces. As you learn more and see more abstract art you will notice that you are acquiring a deeper knowledge and interest. This is bound to help you in interpreting works of abstract art. If you take some time to pursue your interest, you will most certainly be rewarded.