Seeing artworks in the ateliers they were made in is fascinating. The air at the Kunsthochschule (Art School) is heavy with paint and solvents; paint buckets, brushes and easels have been stowed away in a hurry; students seem to be compensating for last night’s lack of sleep rather than guarding the art and asking questions. Some smile (encouragingly?) when the see me making pictures.
Visiting the academy and getting a glimpse of the actual work environment is quite different from going to a museum. But does it help in understanding the works?
If you study hermeneutics (the art and science of understanding), you’ll find the idea that to understand the artist, you need to understand the circumstances under which he or she worked. While I doubt I always want to understand the artist – understanding art is tough enough – visiting an atelier lets me see the works in a ‘fresher’ or even ‘hotter’ state than any other environment (hypothesis: museums are for cooling art down to a more palpable temperature). And since understanding a work of art might as well be non-verbal, digesting it at its freshest might indeed help us understand.
Not to mention the fact that the physical access to the works seems to be way more direct. No one tells you to step back; you can wear your oldest trousers and roll on the floor to get the best point of view if you like. If art is a game, here is an invitation to play with it.
Speaking of invitations: This is part of this year’s third project in which you can participate: The idea is to (playfully) understand art through photography; details can be found on this page.