I woke up this morning thinking about what it is that moves us when art is encountered in unexpected places. When you walk into a sculpture garden or into a museum, you have certain expectations about encountering art. You’re actively participating in the process of absorbing art. You’re planning to find art — perhaps something that inspires you or perhaps that challenges you.
But when you walk into your mortgage broker’s office to find a large, abstract painting in the lobby? Or in your dentist’s office exam room? Or a mural recently painting on the side of a building?
Do you pause and absorb the color for a moment? Do you notice the shape of animals or the way the artist painted the edges of a painting so the design wraps around the whole canvas?
I once had an art teacher who preferred to have his paintings hang in restaurants, cafes and other public environments. He liked them to be taken in that way by viewers in a more casual way, to be absorbed over the span of a meal or a stroll through the library.
I come from a tradition of creating art that is particularly interested in the on-the-spot activity of spontaneously creating . There may be an end in mind, roughly out there at some point. But this particular style of abstract painting engaged in a pre-thought way, with creativity right there in the room, available but not on demand. A little like encountering a wild animal that is interested but won’t be called just because you wish it to arrive.
That creative spark – or je ne sais quoi aspect of an art piece – continues to communicate itself throughout the life of a painting regardless of its environment and can be particularly potent when encountered in art in public environments: a pop of color, the way a line wraps around a building mural, the way morning light catches in a the stone edge of a sculpture.
When I’m looking for an office for the first time, or connecting with a potential business partner and run into art that stops my mind, I think this must be the purpose of art in professional spaces on a deeper level than branding or communicating something about a business: to wake us up in the flow of a day, to remember something about being human, that can often get lost in the constant movement forward that we encounter in the professional world.