It was a show that provoked thought about how we respond to paintings.
What, for instance, do we bring to the viewing experience from our own experiences of being in the world, in the sense of ‘being in the world’ explored by Maurice Merleau-Ponty? How much of our response is prompted by the way in which the artwork has been made?
This is something that Philip Rawson touched upon when he discussed how a spectator’s ‘analogising faculty ‘sets to work upon [a drawing’s] marks, their patterns and arrangement’ as a way of endowing the represented objects ‘with a kind of metaphorical radiance’.
For Rawson, Drawing, 26, this ‘experienced analogy’ draws on ‘fields of experience’ that may derive from other works of art, or from aspects of nature such as moving water or clouds, Rawson, Seeing Through Drawing, 21.
To this pool of knowledge Patrick Maynard added the ‘often barely conscious experience of our own bodies’, Maynard, Drawing Distinctions, 195
Part of the display was the ‘measurement’ of the spectator’s bodily reaction to the paintings when they were viewed in conjunction with added tastes, sounds, smells and touches.
Whilst it is fascinating to be given an annotated diagram of ones own reactions, I felt the lack of some sort of control experiment.
How different would my diagram have looked if my reaction to the paintings had been measured without the added tastes, sounds, smells and touches?
Would it have looked any different to a third experiment carried out after experiencing the paintings as the Tate display presented them, but this time without extraneous tastes, sounds, smells and touches?