I’ve been asked recently how I title paintings. This is an art itself! For me it’s a way of connecting the finished work with language to hint at something more, adding depth and dimension to the visual work. It could reference how the painting landed to me when I stopped working on it, like a first hit of the completed piece. Or a revelation of what I meant, what I was thinking about as a way of connecting the dots to themes or inspiration.
I was reading poetry perhaps and was struck by the poet’s use of place names or a tender approach to the changing season. Or I was researching the latest on super massive black holes or Greek mythology or any mythology because that language is robust with symbolism, stories and language that tends to lift us out of the mundane and into the land of the muses. That liminal space, I think of as approaching from the side. It’s creative, unconquerable space but is also warm and inviting when you’re not forcing or rushing.
Titles can grow to have their own meaning well beyond what you intended which is a cool thing to experience as an artist – a collector may have their own response to a piece that makes more sense to them. I once titled a piece “Silk Road” as I had been researching the historical Silk Road in Asia and the painting spoke to me of dry sandy roads, dusty treasures moving from place to place and the stories they keep. The buyer however was planning to hang it in Mexico and saw it more connected to Yucatán jungles and Mayan ruins.
Next time you look at art titles, consider what the artist wants you to know. Is it self-secret? Does it make sense to you? Does it expand your understanding of what the art is about? Does it raise more questions or answer them?