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Assigning titles to artworks

Untitled drawing and my thoughts about titles

River Dog, Oil painting on canvas 2007/8 © Amy Adams Art

Should an artist title their work or not?

River dog an oil painting by artist amy adams aka amyincluj

Recently an impassioned discussion amongst colleagues occurred just about that topic. Most of the participants thought titles were important for various reasons – the majority did. But I'm not here to list why you should or shouldn't title art. What mattered more to me was first that a title can influence the viewer and second, remembering that all of the people in the discussion have different reasons for making and presenting their art as well, so it becomes first a concious choice and, second a personal choice.

Making art is my profession, thus it is important for me to title my work simply as a matter of tracking more than anything else and it is more convenient for me. My titles include the oxymoron -> "Untitled" as a title. But my titles do not imply meaning generally unless I make a conscious choice to influence the viewer.

If I am doing my job correctly, the work should speak for itself.

amy adams art - pastel portrait drawing of a woman 42cm x 30cm on paper - amyincluj art

Untitled, Pastel drawing on paper, 2015 © Amy Adams Art

Most often they are simple noun descriptors, something like; Girl, Man, Fem, Dog, etc. Chosen for “inventory” not to influence the subjective feeling that a person has when viewing a work. The work shown above, River Dog, it seems to me that it speaks for itself. Do you need to know that is from a series of paintings about abandoned and homeless street dogs? Below is is another example of a work that is, this time, "Untitled." Why would a viewer want to know what I am trying to say with words in this case? It seems illogical to me. If I am doing my job correctly, the work should speak for itself.

Signs, Symbols, Meaning

A visual image, like a word is a sign, a symbol that we give meaning to. Since I am not trying to retell MY experience, a title is not really appropriate. The work is an expression. So even though I might bare my soul in a work in the moment that it is being created, it isn’t about me – it is about the human condition. You might say, that it’s about both of us and at the same time, it’s about you alone and me alone. My hope is that the expression is timeless.

In the broadest sense we all share core emotions and our lives may even fit into neat little archetypes, even so, each individuals perspective is unique. Aside from analysing composition, colour, etc., all viewing is subjective since we are a composite of our experience, our perspectives change with each moment and tomorrow you are someone else, someone who as experienced something else in your life. Think about it, haven’t you had the experience where, at one time in your life think, “Wow that’s great!” – about any topic; fashion, art, music, relationships – then life happens and you think about it again or see it again and think “I can’t believe that was in style?” or “What was I thinking?” etc., etc.

However, all of these are coloured and influenced by our history, our story. Your story is not my story – yes the essence is, the basis, the foundation, the core but your experience of viewing a work is yours, not mine. This is why I feel that it is up to a viewer of a work to determine what the work is for them. What do you think? Should an artist title their work? Do you think your perception of the work would be altered with or without a title?

Share your thoughts in the comments or if you want to see more of my art or read more articles written by me, please subscribe. Thank you for taking the time to read about and view my art. If you want to see more subscribe to my posts here and/or find me on Instagram and Twitter. You can contact me when you click here.


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