ways of looking

Questions to ask of any work

[Source: Tate Gallery, Notes for Teachers]

Personal responses – what do you bring to the artwork?

What are your first reactions to the work?

What is the first word that came into your head when you saw it?
What do you notice first?

Does it remind you of anything?

What do you think the artist wants to communicate?

Looking at the artwork – what can you see?
What materials and processes has the artist used to make the artwork?

What is it? (Is it a film, photograph, drawing, sculpture, installation, performance etc.?)
Where is it? Describe the space.
Does it link with other artworks in the exhibition?

How big is the artwork?
What effect does scale have on the artwork and our relationship to it?
Is it time-based? If so, describe what happened and how long it took.
Is it repeated?

Subject and meaning – what is it about?
Is the artwork about a subject, issue or theme?

Is it about real life?

Could the work have a symbolic, moral or political meaning?

Is there a story or narrative within the work?

How does the work make you think about time?

Does it make you consider aspects of life or art in a new way?

Does the work have a title?
Does this affect the way you see it?

What information is available in the gallery (e.g. wall text or caption)?
Does this information affect or change the way you see it?

Art in Context – influences which shape the creation and reading of a work
Who is the artist?
Do you think the background of the artist can inform us about why or how it was created, or what it might be about?

Was the artwork made for a particular location or event?

Does the artwork link to other works made by the artist?
How does the artwork link to work by other contemporary artists?

Does it connect to any art of the past?

What does the artwork tell us about the ideas and values of today’s world?

How does it link or comment on contemporary social, cultural and political issues such as consumerism, globalisation and multi-culturalism?

Does the work make use of modern materials and technology or perhaps it re-invents age- old processes?

Tate Teachers. Thinking afresh about art