Ways of Looking

Ossian Ward
Laurence King

If you have ever stood, baffled, in front of an artwork and wondered “What does it all mean? ” then this book is for you. Inspired by the notion of a tabula rasa – no prejudices, no preconceptions – Ossian Ward proposes a formula to understand contemporary art: considering time, association, background, understanding, looking again and assessing.

Armed with this simple and surprisingly enlightening tool, Ward picks his way around the minefield that is the landscape of today’s creativity, tracing an astute path through the permutations of art as entertainment, as message, or meditation. The author draws on a wide range of practices and closely examines a number of works that differ substantially in purpose and execution: from Teresa Margolles’ gallery air-conditioning units spraying water used to wash dead bodies prior to autopsy, to Marina Abramović’s seemingly interminable performance art pieces.

With a level head, open mind, and an unusual dose of humour, Ward demonstrates the power of contemporary art to confront, to encourage viewers to think and even to entertain.

Regina Papachlimitzou