In an exhibition crowded with visitors, I have often been curious about the way people look at paintings.
The trope, ‘beauty in the eyes of the beholder’ in those circumstances does come to mind. Though this has a certain simplicity about it, it nevertheless holds a fundamental truth. The sense of sight is common to us all as human beings. Seeing is not looking. When we look we are giving our attention to the thing we are looking at, and that brings the mind into the act; but generally, with the sense of sight being taken so much for granted, we still believe we are seeing the same thing when we look. But here is ‘the rub’: Our mind, being shaped by our experiences, thoughts, emotions and sensations, plays a fundamental role in our act of seeing/looking. Therefore it is eminently reasonable to assume that our visual experiences of paintings would be different.