I used to be a proponent of leaving my artworks untitled – but now I think that is a big mistake, and an opportunity missed.
The philosophy of the un-named artwork being the undiscovered, unbiased potential available for each viewer does have merit. It does provide an open door for the person viewing the artwork to make their own judgements, their own opinions. It does detach the artist from the artwork, so that it can stand alone. It allows the viewer to focus on the surface, the methods of creation, the formal elements such as composition and rhythm. But after that, then what? Maybe that is enough?
Naming an artwork is a lot of work, on the part of the artist. It is a big responsibility and it requires the artist to be vulnerable.
Usually, people will see the artwork from far away, and be introduced to its colours, its composition, the vibe. Something will have caught their eye, and make them curious. After a person approaches an artwork, they will either look at it some more, walk closer, or walk farther to see it at a distance, or they might stoop to see the writing on the card. I like watching people to see what they do – it is a curiosity of mine, to consider if they are right brained or left brained. Right brained will like to explore the work first. Left brained people want the facts. Neither is wrong, it is just interesting to see the approaches.
I look at naming the artwork as an opportunity to provide a mini artist statement, a way for the person to connect to the artwork through words. The naming of an artwork provides a whole other dimension for the viewer, and sometimes even the artist, to explore. The consideration of the title requires the artist to look at their work and themselves. The title helps to consolidate their thoughts, or introduce new ones. Naming an artwork can be scarey, and it can be tremendous fun.
For the viewer, for those who have taken the time to wander through the artwork first, it gives them an idea of what the artist was thinking or feeling. For the left brain person, it gives them an additional fact about the painting that might not have been apparent. For each though, it gives them something else to think about.
Titles can indicate methods, or maybe it is part of a series, or an example of a smaller concept inside the whole. Maybe there is some other esoteric reason for the title. Maybe it was the music being listened to while it was created. Maybe the title is exactly what the artwork is “House on a Hill”. The title can be a strong indication, without expressly saying, what the philosophy of the artist is, it is implied with the structure of the words.
The whole reason for the existence of art is to express and communicate, isn’t it? It is for me. To communicate effectively, I think you have to try to reach more levels of understanding or awareness, unless your goal or your inclination is to be exclusionary, and only appeal to a select group of individuals. I remember when I was small, it was the fad for people to speak pig-latin, and only if you knew the format of pig-latin could you understand or speak it. How many people speak pig-latin today on a regular basis? Where is its longevity or the endurance? Fads come and go – do you want your work to have staying power, or are you content that people have forgotten it, when another Abstract Red #3 comes in? Will they remember yours?
Titles are hard work. But worth it. Think of the worlds you would be opening up for someone, and for yourself.