Art & architecture blog

A new way of looking

[Book review] Ways of looking: how to experience contemporary art by Ossian Ward

This book is a guide to contemporary art. It doesn’t require any prior knowledge and aims to stay well away from any art jargon, instead providing a clear step-by-step guide the author calls a tabula rasa – a clean slate approach. There are six steps labelled “time”, “association”, “background”, “understanding”, “look again”, and “assessment”. Ossian Ward begins by explaining each step, then goes on to apply this method to numerous artworks split up into several different categories that prompt the reader to look at the works in a certain way – as entertainment, confrontation, an event, a message, a joke, a spectacle or meditation.


Entertainment and joke in particular are words that you wouldn’t expect a serious critic to attach to pieces of art – but Ward does just that, providing readers with a new way of tackling art that many people would look at with incomprehension. Sometimes, as with the entertainment category, the reader is simply encouraged to just enjoy the art for what it is – and have fun. This is a fresh and approachable book, interesting for anyone wanting to know more about contemporary art and how to gain meaning from it.

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