A recent post on Cristian Mihai’s blog (which you really ought look at) pointed out the importance of a good book cover. Of course somebody commented by citing the phrase ‘never judge a book by its cover’. This got me thinking: I do judge books by their cover. Often. Always in fact. The cover and the title. If these are bad or uninteresting I won’t read the book. I think most people are the same in this. This is because of another little phrase: ‘First impressions are the most important’.
If not the most important, first impressions are certainly the strongest.
This is true for mostly everything. If your first impression of a person is that they’re a douche, then it takes a fair amount of convincing to make you think otherwise.
First impressions are very important. It’s a very simple, natural thing to go with your gut reaction and make a decision about a thing right away.
Sometimes it’s wrong. The book with the fantastic cover art turns out to be crap. But sometimes the book is just as good as the cover made it out to be. In the end, it’s the first impression that lasts.
I find this especially true with art. If I see a painting and the first thoughts and ideas I have about it lead me to make a certain analysis, take for example Rembrandt’s ‘Girl in the Picture Frame’ or the whole ‘ Women with Mirrors’ thing. No matter how much I read up and learn about the piece, there is still a part of my first impression that lasts.
That’s why, when I write about art on this blog, be it painting, theatre or cartoon, I try to approach them from a relatively first impressionable basis (does that wording work?).
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always read a bit about the author and the work or ideologies behind it, so that I can make educated guesses and search for deeper meanings within my first impression.
I also think that first impressions often come from a more creative part of our brain – the part that makes us want to be painters, writers or actors. The part that made Bruno Schulz see a woman’s shoe as a sinister symbol rather than simple footwear. The part that makes a child believe he is a king when he stands on higher ground than his friend.
So when we see art, we instantly try to decide what it means to us, and in doing so we create a context or form that works for our own understanding of the work. In this way art becomes about a dialogue between artist, art and spectator. Art is not just a picture on a wall. Art is meaning, transferred from the artist into whatever medium s/he works with, and then transformed by the spectator. This process is art – not the picture itself.
So trust your first impressions, because they’re the most important and the longest lasting.
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION TIME! There are two pictures in this post. Both by very, very important Polish artists, Tadeusz Kantor and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. I’d love to hear your first impressions of these pictures. What do they mean to you? What images do they invoke?
An update on my life.
My show Pages from the Book of… is currently running at the Summerhall venue is Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If you happen to be around Edinburgh, do come and see us. And let me know, so we can meet. We’re on in the Main Hall at 3pm everyday, until the 24th.
For now though – here is a review of our opening night. I will write about the Fringe and specifically Summerhall in the next few days or so!