Man Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes in his 2015 work Keeping an Eye Open, Essays on Art offers some profound observations on the reading and understanding of art.
I particularly liked the essay - So Does It Become Art? - where Barnes observed: What counts is the surviving object and our living response to it. The tests are simple: does it interest the eye, excite the brain, spur the mind to reflection and move the heart; further, is an apparent level of skill involved? Much current fashionable art bothers only the eye and briefly the brain, but fails to engage the mind and heart. It may, to use the old dichotomy, be beautiful, but it is rarely true to any significant depth... One of the constant pleasures of art is its ability to come at us from an unexpected angle and stop us short in wonder.
Such simple truths, so easy to embrace yet so often left at the door to the studio.
In the New York Times review of Keeping an Eye Open they say: Gustave Flaubert — the subject of Julian Barnes’s magical novel-biography-meditation, “Flaubert’s Parrot” — argued that great paintings required no words of explanation. But as Mr. Barnes writes in “Keeping an Eye Open,” an illuminating new collection of essays on art, “we remain incorrigibly verbal creatures who love to explain things” — “put us in front of a picture and we chatter, each in our different way.” You can read the full review HERE.