WAYS OF LOOKING. How to experience contemporary art


It’s true that we saw many books on the subject but no amount of reflection would be too much in this case and each brings actually another perspective, which might be refreshing. Ossian Ward, the author of ‘Ways of Looking’ published by Laurence King, is well aware of the fact that contemporary art, like contemporary life, is now a similarly fast-moving experience and remarks that we don’t stop to look at much anything nowadays. On one hand the book is supposed to be the antidote for diversification, on the other to show how to interact, start a dialogue and look afresh at the art works. I must say it’s a stimulating and exciting text. Partly thanks to a very nice style it’s written, party due to the way the author shares his experience. We’re confronted with many interesting works by learning about author’s encounters, which makes reading very attractive (and credible). 

That’s not all. The author invents a special approach that the readers should be able to apply while analysing contemporary art (in this case works created from 2000 until today). Ossian Ward wants to provide a straightforward set of tools to deal with almost any form of art currently being produced, no matter how alienating or complex it might first appear. I do not however intend to tell you about it in details as it’s fun to discover it and train by reading the book. Additionally each chapter suggest a different way in to a work of art – through humour, scale, its message, performative qualities, among others. As the author promises at the very beginning, all chapters indeed provide enough thematic food for thought when confronted with a puzzling piece. In between chapters you will find ‘Spotlights’ focusing on analysing selected works of art. Does it work? Well, is speaks to me. I find the intention to avoid art-historical references (even if one can find some) or philosophical quotations very good, too. It’s a witty and intelligent reflection on how to be able to appreciate art without feeling intimidated. And given the complexity of the subject, I would say Ossian Ward explores all avenues to give us a thought-provoking text.

Ossian Ward is Head of Content at the Lisson Gallery. He was previously chief art critic at Time Out London.