Sunday, June 2, 2013

"What Are You Looking At?" by Will Gompertz

I'm halfway through reading this great book that I picked up when I was away on a short break. Purchased from the most excellent Liber Bookshop in Sligo Town, Will Gompertz's book What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye is a purchase anyone interested in art will not regret.

Gompertz's writing style is informative and accessible without mystifying the reader with all the arty-farty bull that often emerges when art is being discussed. Gompertz is the first to admit that the industry is guilty of this fault, with its wealth of highly qualified museum and gallery staff writing exhibition brochures and wall plaques that need to inform the public but at the same time will be seen and judged by the higher echelons of the art world.

It is an art book that sets each major movement starting with the Impressionists in their own place in history and the influences and events that sparked off the changes in approach and thought. Their are colour plates of works from the major artists discussed and black and white prints interspersed throughout to further illustrate Gompertz' text. It is the type of book that makes you want to go away and explore further about specific artists or places that they worked in. These books to me are the best, those that spring board onto other books or websites or even to visiting the gallery where a particular artwork is shown. It encourages further thought and exploration where Gompertz has skirted the surface to give just enough detail to make one feel knowledgeable and to understand the roots of the art movement but not so saturated that there is not  more to discover. His very cleverly designed timeline of the Modern Art movements at the front of the book is laid out like the London underground map- a familiar iconic design that we are used to interpreting but here presenting a sometimes confusing pattern of development in a very clear and manageable way.

The Guardian is quoted as saying that "Will Gompertz is the best teacher that you never had" and I will second that statement. This is the type of book that you will return to again and again as the read about influences are recognised in new artworks that are produced and seen by the critical public.

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