Subjective and Objective Perspectives

This page will help you differentiate between subjective and objective ways of looking at art.

The first level in approaching art is learning to look at it. In future discussions we will spend more time in pure observation than you probably have done before. Generally, we tend to look at art in terms of "liking" it first, and "looking" at it later. From this perspective, the subjective (that is, the knowledge that resides in the emotions and thoughts of the viewer) almost completely dominates our way of looking at art.

In the arts, it's especially important to begin to develop an informed or objective opinion rather than just an instinctual reaction. An objective view is one that focuses on the object's physical characteristics as the main source of information. This does not mean that you will remove or invalidate your subjective feelings about a work, in fact you will find that the more informed you become, the more artwork will affect you emotionally and intellectually. It does mean that you will learn alternative ways to approach art, ways that allow you to find clues to meaning and to understand how art reflects and affects our lives.

It's complex, but the satisfaction of looking at art comes from exploring the work to find meaning, not shying away from it because we may not initially understand it.

Source: Christopher Gildow, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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Last modified: Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 9:26 AM