Modern art evokes open interpretations

Modern art always fascinates me. They may not always consist of detailed and delicate lines and shadows to reflect “realism,” in fact, many modern arts does lack the “details” pursued by realism artists. However, modern art treasures to the art world not because of their details or techniques, but the ideas beyond their canvases: modern art is always open for interpretation.

As one of the representatives of post-impressionism art, Georges Seurat is well-known for his pointillism technique of illustrations. To him, the use of colored dots to build up an image means a deviation of thought from both classics and impressionist. However, his choice of using such technique can also be seen as a “mixture” of ideas from both genres above, since he is both pursuing some level of details while still maintaining the vibrancy of his colors.

One of his works, the Seascape at Port-en-Bessin depicts a natural seaside landscape with greenish hills and peaceful blue ocean. However, a closer look at this piece shows that hills may not just be composed of green, and the sea may not be represented only by blueish colors. Seurat once said that Art should be about “harmony; the analogy of the contrary and similar elements of tone, color, and line.” In his seascape painting, Seurat skillfully used an equivalent quantity of warm and cold color “pixels” to express a rather calm picture; a way that not many artists at his time ever attempt to do. In addition, his use of colored dots also leaves an open interpretation of their use. “Are they used just to balance the mood? Or do they represent something present in the picture?”

Another one of his art pieces and perhaps his most famous one is the “Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte.” I this painting, Seurat also made use of harmonious color effect to achieve a calm and leisure beach-side environment. However, as a painter who is still been influenced by impressionist thoughts, he left the emotions and interactions among people on the beach largely “vague.” Therefore opens a “conversation” between viewers and the painting regarding the relationships and mood of people inside this art piece.

If Seurat’s works are not enough for evoking active interpretations, then Rene Magritte is definitely the artist that “plays with meanings” in every one of his art pieces. Magritte’s surrealistic paintings often cause his viewers to execute what psychology called a “cognitive closure,” which is described as the human desire to “fill-in-the-gap” and arrive at certain conclusions. This subconscious intention is the major driving force for people’s open interpretation of his works. 

What is the landscape behind the painting? What does the man look like behind the green apple? A thousand people may have a thousand interpretations regarding their perceptions. However, as Magritte once pointed out about his paintings, that “my images conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does that mean?’. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.” The beauty of modern art is its ability to evoke interpretations. There are no right or wrong answers, yet the interpretation process they create is always the most precious to its viewers.