Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Cents on Art Crits

Art criticism is an established style of criticizing works of art.  There are three components to it before one judges the work.

Detailed description - The critic must document all the details in the artwork.  What is there to see?  In a landscape, it wouldn't be just I see trees, it would be I see three trees in the background, in the top left of the painting.  They have an assortment of colored leaves including orange, yellow, and green.  The middle one looks to be a maple tree by the shape of the leaves.

Actually, more detail than that, but you get the picture.

Analysis - This is a detailed look at how the formal properties of art are utilized in the work of art.  How did the artist use the elements to create balance and rhythm, etc? 

Interpretation - What was the artist trying to tell you in the work of art?  Is it a painting about social injustice or love?  What are the clues that establish any kind of emotion and how do you feel when viewing it?

These three criteria for judgement reveal the three components in a work of art  - imitationalism, formalism and emotionalism.  Some people just like how realistic something looks.  Others appreciate a more formal use of color theory and line quality in their art.  Then there are the people who think art should have a message.  When a piece of art works on all three levels, the result is a good judgement, maybe even a masterpiece.

The truth is, most people don't understand art.  Some artists don't even know about these isms, especially if they are self-taught.  But once one sees that there are all these things behind the scenes at work, one tends to appreciate the gift of art.

So, now that I'm a writer, (okay, a self-taught writer) I try to utilize this same structure in my own work.  Writing is weird in that your finished work isn't actually finished until an editor or series of editors gets their hands on it and makes you second guess your original choices.

I admit that while formalism is my strong suit in painting, it is my weakest area in writing.  I am not super-duper well-versed in sentence structure, so it is helpful to have a second or third set of eyes on the work.

It just really bugs me that book critics don't use a standard format to judge the work.  They will have an emotional aversion to something and forego the amazing detail and organization of plot.  They won't see the brilliant use of literary form (if it's there).

Writing is also weird when trying to peddle to publishers.  We like sex, but not anal or whatever.  We like this but not that.  No this, this and this.  And that too.

I'm not used to such seemingly rigid guidelines to my art.  I create alone - then spring my finished series of paintings on the guests of my artist reception at a gallery.  They are always intrigued by the originality of the work.  Other artists always tell me that I'm very brave because I tend to use imagery and ideas that appeal to me personally, which tends to make me more vulnerable to criticism.

If an artist doesn't leave a piece of themselves in the work, then all it is to me is imitationalism.  I can't stand that.  It just isn't enough.  Writing can be an artistic outlet (should be) and I wish places like Amazon would stop treating a writer's art like it should be criticized without a legitimate form of assessment.

1 comment:

  1. I really don't get art criticism... Particularly as I've seen pieces of (in my opinion) crap judged as amazing art... :P I've lost faith in art critics, basically.