One of the strangest things I came across which has stayed with me, was one person’s description of how they feel about Enya’s music. They said they like her music a lot, but that they feel that it lacks emotion. To me that was the strangest thing to read, because I feel the complete opposite about her music. Her music is calm and pleasant, but the heart of that quietness, the slow-ripples-in-a-pond-like style lies a very deep emotion. I think it can be easily noticed when one compares her calm music with calm “elevator type” music. But it led me to think of a more general truth: The nature of the communication of art and its objectivity.
Art can obviously be experienced differently by different people.
The same works in paintings. An artist could paint an abandoned alley in golden daylight, think they captured that feeling of solitary glow perfectly, that feeling of slow sunlight shining quietly on the world in hidden corners, but someone else looks at the same painting and sees only the alley. They might sum up the painting by saying: “Oh, isn’t this the corner of 5th and Main? I think I know this alley!”.
However, and here is the important part: A different person with the right “emotional vocabulary” will see the meaning of the piece in the same way the artist thought of it instantly. It will be as obvious to them as to the one who created it. And the clues will all be there in the piece, too; the emphasis; not on the structure or the concrete details of the street, but rather on the interaction of light with the objects in the scene.
But an artist simply cannot create anything that will automatically impose its meaning on an observer. Such a thing is unobtainable.
Art speaks a language whose meaning can only be understood by having the complete emotional vocabulary. The meaning is there, but it has to be decoded by having the right “dictionary”. To a large degree I think all people have a lot in common in terms of their “dictionaries”, but they also have huge differences depending on their personality, life experiences and associations.
I also believe these different “dictionaries” can be explained and shown, to some degree, and that eventually, through differentiation from other artworks, someone can be made to see the essence of an artwork in a more precise, nuanced way. And I realize that this also applies to me regarding artworks I don’t immediately relate to or understand.