Back in May when I was sitting looking at Patrick Heron paintings in the Tate St Ives, I couldn’t help overhearing some of the things adults said to their children:
Which one do you like?
What colour is that?
Can you see the ball in the picture?
That picture is bigger than you, isn’t it?
This started me thinking more about why we take children into art galleries and what we expect them to get from their experience. These questions lead the children to think about their emotional response, to look for something they recognise, to name and label, to see paintings as objects. While any of these might be fun or interesting, they could be asked in the shopping mall or playground. How do we help children look more deeply at artworks?
Naya is now 21 months and has been looking at this painting of mine since she was a tiny baby. She passes it on the stairs and greets in the morning, says good night to it on the way to bed.
When I carry her, we stop by it, and I talk about it, trying to extend her looking at the abstract painting in terms of colour / shape and movement / light and dark – and how it makes us feel.
Do you like that green circle?
Look, here’s another green circle. A little one. And here’s a big big one, going off the edge.
And what’s in the middle? Yes, it’s blue.
Where’s the pink? The pink goes all the way to the edge… into that dark shadow.
I like this white dotty part Which bit do you like?
The aim is for Naya to experience a combination of interest, growing familiarity, and deepening attention that is a great start to her looking at art.