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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | February 21, 2020

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Woe to us, the uncultured!

Matilda Butler
A girl in a yellow top staring at an artwork.

Inside the gallery.

Oh, to be a cultured human! To stroll through the art galleries of Brisbane and stare. Just stare and stare until you feel completely absorbed in the work. The art transforms before your eyes and you capture every hint, nuance and suggestion of meaning, history and emotion. You understand it, you speak the same language. Now it’s speaking to you… no singing… no wait, dancing for you. “It’s a thing of beauty, a masterpiece,” you say with confirmation and confidence as you walk transcendently to the next piece. Then you stare. Just stare.

For those of you who have experienced art in this ethereal manner, hats off to you! Maybe when you were born, the first thing you saw was a generic print canvas on the wall of your mother’s hospital room. It was a picture of a fishing boat resting on calm waters just off the coast of Isola del Giglio. Your face screwed up, turned purple and you began to wail in disgust. I’m just saying, maybe that’s why you’re so cultured… I don’t know. I don’t have all your answers, but for most of us I can say we only wailed because we weren’t happy with our less than comfortable arrival into the world. Let’s not linger on the topic.

Point being, the gallery can be a daunting place. Coated in white (or just exposed brick for the true minimalist), corners (just so many right-angles), spotless floors and quiet. A smiling human sits at their desk as you push through the door and take in your environment. Your shoes squeak rebelliously and your breathing echoes. As you smile reassuringly at the human, you tell yourself that it’s going to be okay. Just tread lightly, stop breathing and stare at some canvasses.

Friends, comrades, brothers and sisters, I’m here to enlighten you. If you want to truly enjoy the art galleries of Brisbane or any city, heed some of my words…


1. Gallery: A room or building for the display or sale of works of art.

Have no fear! Art galleries are made for you to view. That human at the desk is there to see the art on show, appreciated and maybe even sold.
 2. The quiet is not a rule.

I’m not suggesting a loud entrance, incessant chatter or clatter. I am suggesting you ask the gallery staff or owner a few questions about the work exhibited. There may be information on wall, but it won’t tell you everything.
Do you source artwork from Australia exclusively?
Are you noticing any trends in art these days?
Are you having any new work come in soon?
What’s it like to run a gallery?
What’s your favourite piece?
Who’s your favourite artist?
3. Relax, just do it.
Standing a fair distance from the painting with your head tilted slightly to the left (to suggest creative intelligence), one hand raised to the chin and a hazy look on your face is not the only way to appreciate art. I don’t know who said it and I’m sure it is beneficial sometimes. I recommend taking a breath, relaxing and taking the time to look at art from different angles.
  • Stand at a long distance to see it in its entirety,
  • Move in half way and pace along or around it,
  • Get up close  to see details without touching the art (that’s a no-no!),
  • Most importantly, you can decide straight away if you like it or not. Don’t feel obliged to give every artwork a fair chance. It’s a tough world and it either cuts the mustard or not!
So here’s my prescription for you.
Two capsules of Stop-over-thinking-it, 5ml of This-is-not-the-Trumann-show and some daily Breathe-and-enjoy-the-art-around-you-excersises. I also recommend taking some Vitamin C, the kid’s ones taste better.