Ward, who has a background in Contemporary art, laid out his multi-step system for understanding and appreciating unfamiliar works in his talk in St James’s Over-Seas House.
“You don’t need to know every fact behind an artwork to enjoy it,” he said. “Anyone can enjoy anything.”
However, Look Again, which he referred to as “sort of a self-help book”, lays out a 10-step method for looking at and breaking down the art of the Old Masters.
Dubbed ‘TABULA RASA’ (from the Latin phrase meaning clean slate), the system involves approaching art with a clear mind before moving into the series of steps.
The first part of the method, TABULA – Time, Association, Background, Understand, Look Again, Assessment – was initially described in his earlier book Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art. However, Look Again extends the system to include RASA – Rhythm, Allegory, Structure, Atmosphere – reminding viewers that older works were created in a different time.
During the talk he applied different parts of his system to works such as Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa and Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine.
Look Again was published by Thames & Hudson last month. Ward is head of content at the contemporary London Gallery and was previously chief art critic for Time Out London.