I have this habit of not titling paintings, which (among other things) eventually led to using numbers for identification purposes. Most buyers are perfectly fine with that. But when one of my biggest supporters mentioned it being a bit of an issue, I had to give it some thought.
What’s in a name? After all, “a rose by any other name…”. Many of the “master artists” left their work untitled. If you wander around any art gallery, you’ll find many works titled “Untitled”, or with titles given by collectors and curators so the work could be more readily identified in records.
But what else does a title do? It gives the viewer a clue when interpreting an image. It can be a hint or confirmation of the intended message. It can add impact. After all, without its title, The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living would only be a dead shark, preserved in a fish tank– still visually interesting work from an interesting artist, perhaps, but the title makes it more thought provoking. Plus, without a title, it would probably have been just a little less marketable. Just imagine if he’d gone with a name like “Pickled Shark”… or “Someone Killed This Just So You Could Come Look at It”.
And, without its title, Onement 1 is just a stripe on a background.
Personally, a part of me still feels like the work should be able to stand on its own, whether it has a name or not. I find myself wondering, how many things would we still buy if not for the poets who bestow names and flowery descriptions? Part of me objects to titling, partly because it resembles a sales pitch. However, it does give the artist an additional tool, and another way to influence viewers. It’s another way for artists to express ourselves, or to clarify what we are expressing in the artwork.
I’m still undecided about the value of a title. But, for the sake of everyone else, I think I will name my work more often from now on. If nothing else, it will save collectors and gallery curators the trouble of inventing names when I am gone.