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Eye of the Beholder: why art attracts or repels us

The title of our first Christmas exhibition is Eye of the Beholder. A big topic – so we'll have fun scratching the surface as we present a wide array of visual stimulation.

We all know that art creating and art viewing are very subjective and intuitive. Language can be an imperfect way to articulate our reaction. The impact of art on viewers varies massively, depending on a myriad of factors, such as viewer predisposition, life experience and emotional state.

In everyday parlance, if we say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder', we mean that it is a matter of personal opinion. Technically, in visual art, beauty is a combination of qualities, such as shape, line, colour or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. But it's hard to pin it down beyond that.

And, of course, we don't just like art that is beautiful – we can also appreciate, and connect with, ugly or challenging images of many kinds.

Meanwhile, 'beauty' is an idea that, over the past century, has been slowly downgraded when it comes to considering the value of contemporary art. Does beauty matter? Do we need it, as a touchstone, to enjoy or connect with art? Is beauty a matter of irrelevant superficiality – or is it pivotal to what art is?

The very diverse work of our three Featured Artists – Luba Arnold-Larnie, Steven Hubbard and Rosalind Robinson – explores different types of beauty through intent, technique, colour, style and impact. What is it in their work that draws us in and pleases our aesthetic mind? We certainly engage with each of them in a vastly different way.

South Cotswolds art lecturer, Fiona James, will explore these ideas and more in her evening promenade-style talk on 8 December – the first of our art history presentations and one of our ongoing series of 'Live on Long Street' arts events, linked with each show. Do take a look – see our Exhibitions & Events page – and book up soon to secure one of the limited places.

For now, we'll leave you with these thoughts... The philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, claimed that aesthetic contemplation of beauty is the freest and most pure that intellect can be. In other words, art appreciation is an ideal physical workout for your brain cells!

So, from 17 Novembr to 23 December, free up your mind and your spirit, view the myriad of forms and pictures we have collected together and switch on your aesthetic antenna to pinpoint the factors that draw you to particular artworks over others. You may be surprised and delighted by the results. Your brain will thank you too.

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