Look at this painting of South Bay, Scarborough, by Yorkshire artist, Arthur Kitching. Do you like it?
Yes? So why do you like it?
No? What is it that you dislike about the painting?
Or are you indifferent to it? Same type of question – why are you indifferent?
A work of art inevitably provokes a response of sorts from the viewer. You are drawn to it – or not – by an intrinsic process that is often hard to analyse. And that is part of the attraction. Looking at an art work is not a neutral act; there is always an emotional response of some type attached to the process.
This is positive, as it awakens our senses, reminds us why we are alive, and engages our mind. We shouldn’t, however, be swayed by what others think. What you think is just as valid as the thoughts of an art critic; it is what you feel that is important. A photograph of the same view of Scarborough will also provoke a response – but I suspect not to the same degree or depth.
I will declare my support for the Arthur Kitching painting: I like it, and I like it because it challenges me to think why. Other people I have shown it to have reacted to the figures in the foreground as being ‘clumsy’, ‘naïve’, ‘childlike’ – or ‘daubs’, as one person put it. Another said, ‘but Scarborough doesn’t look like this; it looks more like the Mediterranean!”
True. Scarborough is not the Mediterranean and the figures are not anatomically perfect. As for ‘childlike’ and ‘daubs’, I think that this was the point. The artist wanted to give an impression of the resort through the excited eyes of a child; wanted to catch the glorious magic and colour of being by the seaside in summer, whether you are six or sixty.
I like the shapes and forms in the painting, too. I like the circular and semi-circular patterns in the painting: of the sweep of the bay, the clouds, the waves, the vegetation in the foreground – even the faces of the people. I like the way the light blue of the sky meets the darker blue of the sea, and how the terracotta colours of the buildings evoke the warmth of summer.
What’s the point of art? One point, and perhaps the main one, is to awake our senses, and encourage us to look at the familiar with fresh eyes.