Looking without Talking

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Looking without Talking

Date and time

Friday 16 August, 6.30–7.00pm (repeated 7-7.30pm)

Rooms 22-28

Gill Hart

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This event celebrates the quiet power of painting.

One of the enduring qualities of Vermeer’s paintings is resounding silence. This evening we invite you to sit quietly in front of a Dutch painting in Rooms 22–28 and just see what happens when you become immersed in the world of the picture.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. The galleries are closed off, the lighting has been adjusted and we invite you to take a seat and look, undisturbed, at the painting in front of you.

This event has been inspired by several ideas. First, the current exhibition at the National Gallery “Vermeer and Music” sets up an interesting tension between the soundtrack that accompanies Vermeer’s paintings and the resoundingly quiet atmosphere that they possess. If we can experience a painting in a new kind of way through listening to music, what could we gain from quietly looking for an extended period of time?

Secondly, in a world filled with sound and moving images, the stillness of a painting can encourage a meditative, slower viewing experience. In a busy art gallery, the opportunity to sit quietly in front of a painting on your own can be a rare luxury. Recently, students instructed to stare at one painting or sculpture for three hours described how the process astonished them, enabling them to see things, make observations, and develop original ideas about the work that never would have occurred otherwise. We would like to propose starting with five minutes.

We have no instructions for you although we will provide some quotations intended to get you in the mood for looking. 

Afterwards, we will present you with a card featuring a series of questions. It would be helpful to us if you were able to answer them and hand it back to us before you leave.

This card is also your invitation to join us in the Creative Space at 7.45pm for a glass of wine and a chance to find out more about the ideas behind the event.

Image above: Detail from Pieter Saenredam, 'The Interior of the Buurkerk at Utrecht', 1644