When you go to a museum, how much time do you spend looking at a single work of art? Most museum-goers try to get their money’s worth and see as much as they can, quickly skimming over a painting before moving on to the next one. If this sounds like you, BBC Radio 4’s series Moving Pictures may change the way that you look at art. In each 30-minute episode, presenter Cathy Fitzgerald takes a “long, loving look” at a work of art, whether that be a painting, a wall-hanging, or Japanese screens. Through audio, this mesmerising series pulls you into the extraordinary world of each masterpiece.
What is perhaps most remarkable about Moving Pictures is that it vividly conjures up visual details through sound. You can listen while looking at a high-resolution photograph of the painting being discussed, but the episodes are just as captivating without the image. Rich descriptions of the artwork and atmospheric sound design help bring each piece to life. Cathy Fitzgerald invites you to walk with her through the bustling markets of Kyoto, explore the romantic scenes of a tapestry, and peek and find what hides amongst the flowers of a still-life. Each episode finds stories in the scene, describing static images as if they are moving figures.
The series’ approach to art-talk is refreshingly unpretentious. Cathy Fitzgerald and her featured guests do away with art market jargon, instead choosing to speak about the works in a fresh and accessible way. She describes the craftsmanship that went into each piece, pointing out beautiful detailing or techniques used, without overloading the listener with technical terminology. Often, the art pieces featured are not immediately recognisable, nor were they created by the world’s most famous artists.
Rather than praising, as many have before, the Van Goghs and Da Vincis of the art world, the series highlights exceptional pieces by lesser-known names such as Rachel Ryusch and Ann West. The eccentric features and mysteries of their lives are often as entertaining as the artwork itself. For those who like to listen to podcast chatter when on-the-go or often have the radio playing in the background at home, take time out to give your full attention to this series. Sit back, relax and dive into a painting for half an hour. The intimate, relaxing listening experience of Moving Pictures will leave you wanting more.
Image: acstitch via Flickr