The question many pose is, “what did I not see in the painting?” Or perhaps you hear the exclamation: “I see a boy in blue holding an apple, looking at the window kind of sadly.”
The question of art is not one of ‘what’ one sees, rather one of ‘how’ one sees. There are many things to see, most of which are not shown to the eye to begin with.
Try this simple test.
Stand four feet from the full length mirror in the restroom. What do you see?
The reflection is of you, of course. But can you also see the space? Can you see the distance into the mirror in which your other self stands? Of course you can. And beyond the far wall? And yet the mirror is flat. Singular in dimension. Touch it for confirmation of this physical truth.
Again, stand in front of same mirror. This time close enough to feel your breath reflecting from the glass. Look now. There is no space. Look into your eyes. Stare into the reflection of your eyes and decide what you see. Look clearly and with slow study. Do not look away, rather continue to look into the eyes of a representation only.
Tell me. Tell me as if I were there. Why do you not say that you see only your eyes? Why do you tell me of a sad girl in need of hugs? Why do you say you see the ocean and thundering cumulus clouds of purple expansion? Why do you say you suddenly saw the weariness of your soul?
In the same mirror we see both the space among a one dimensional reflection and the emotion of a static image. Here is where we find art. It is here the artist resides.
When the poet write of the empty winter sky it is for us to seek the hawk sitting among the shadow of the barren treeline.
If he should say, “the wind came up against her fair cheek”, should he also have need to say she goes in haste? And moreover that she travels to her lover?
The artist and the poet would have you see what is not painted, and feel what is not expressed. For this you must learn that sight comes from many places, the least of which, in all truth, is the eye.