Finishing an Artwork

I have always believed that the person viewing the artwork completes it. What I see in an artwork is different from the person next to me, because the work elicits and draws out our own emotions and experiences. We all have different life stories and are in different emotional states when we experience an artwork for the first time. The artist creates their work for us to experience and finish.
One of the great things about my job is that almost every day visitors to the gallery give me new ways of understanding and appreciating the art we have on display. For example, the sculptures of John Hegglun; John’s sculptures are made from dark rich driftwood. Until one visitor pointed out that they looked like Salvador Dali’s work, I hadn’t made that connection, now, it seems obvious.
This leads me to the other great thing about working in an art gallery, that is with art there is no right or wrong interpretation, because the next person is more than likely going to disagree with what I think is obvious. This is great because our experience of art, or finishing of art is personal. When we share our experiences we also share part of our history. By simply sharing our point of view on an artwork we give an insight into who we are.
In our previous show “A place to remember: Forest, Land, and Sea.” The most popular piece for many visitors is by Colin Wynn. It is a landscape painting of an Albatross in the Southern Ocean. The picture features deep dark blue oceanic water on a clear day with high winds and large swells. The focal point is a Buller’s Albatross, effortlessly gliding across the stormy water.
I like this work, the colour of the water the raw energy of the sea and wind, but it is the Albatross that makes me really fall in love with it. Because for me while the sea and wind is exciting and thrilling, and I can hear the roar of the wind gusts, feel the spray of the water being picked up. I can see the movement of the water coming towards me. But for the Albatross it is just a normal day being a part of the Southern Ocean, nothing special or exciting.
Another way of viewing the painting replaces my interruption of exciting raw energy of the great ocean. With the view that, “the wave is dark, ominous, and looming, ready to crash over us.” Both ways of finishing tell us something about each person while still completing the work. For me, the other way of finishing the work makes me appreciate the work more, while also acknowledging that I am safely viewing the scene from the outside, warm and dry. This connection I would have not made without talking to other viewers. It also gives me an insight into the person giving the painting a different finish. They are probably not going to enjoy crossing the Cook Strait, unless the sea is calm.
Finishing artwork whether in the positive or negative comes in the sharing. Leads to a richer experience and understanding: safely knowing that you are separate from the artwork. In the sharing, you gain knowledge of the person you are sharing the experience with and getting to appreciate the art from multiple perspectives.