After a couple of misses, I finally made it on time and on a working day to the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) for the Language of Visual Arts art walk. An informative walk, it is tailored to give you the know-how of basic aspects of art.

There are some paintings that tell you what seems to be an obvious story while modern art seems to evade all logic at first glance. It was good to see there were others in the group who were equally baffled. Every time I come face to face with abstract paintings, I silently urge them, “C’mon now, give me a clue as to what you are about.” I then take a quick look at the title and it says Untitled. Argh!

A question on people’s minds was how one decides the merit of a piece of art (y’know a child could do that!), to which we were told it is the same way one judges a good book from a bad one. That didn’t make it easier to understand what lay before us, but I got the point.

NGMA is a gorgeous place, all green and serene on the outside. Inside, it is spacious with wood flooring. A quiet hush pervades the space where paintings, miniature or larger than life, command all the attention.

NGMA – the walk up the driveway

So here’s where we started, with elements and priniciples.

Elements are Lines (represent emotions), Colours (cultural & personal associations), Form, Shape, Texture (there are two types, felt & illusory) and Space (could mean within the canvas or between the object and the viewer).

Principles include Balance (symmetric & assymetric), Harmony (the feeling it evokes – but here, as one of the guys observed, an artwork may be harmonious on the physical front like in the way the colours are used, but as you look beyond it you can experience disharmony), Movement (not in reference to just the subject within the work but also the movement made by the eye), Rythm (a visual beat, repeated at reglar intervals), Proportion, Emphasis, Gradiation (of space and form) and Variety.

A painting by Jagdish Chander

More on them –
My Kid Could Do That! –
A child could paint that! –

The walk was a great starting point to exploring the museum. I must do another round of the museum armed with this basic art knowledge and get more out of it than just fleeting impressions.


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