The Critique Handbook: Chapter One Response

January 20, 2019

Brush to Canvas

Gathering in a room with fellow artists and critiquing each others' work is an exercise that goes far beyond the “canvas.” A head-on approach can be taken when the critic stands in front of a painting and takes it all in as a whole, while an “angled” view might look at the media choices and techniques utilized. As the participants take their turns interpreting, sizing-up and otherwise internally chastising the collection of expressions, a sense of each individual starts to develop. The observer relates to the pieces as well as each other. A breakdown of the various uses of color, space and line opens a gradual connection among the players; a virtual pecking order sorts itself.

The freedom or struggle involved during the solo creation processes gives way to an opening or closing of personalities in the group setting. Self-evaluation, in silence, reveals how forward or hesitant the “messages” are being conveyed, as each piece is examined and an extension of each artist is realized: who is really being critiqued, the work or the individual?

Applications and media choices work as extensions of the artists’ limbs and cannot be separated from them, even by dissection or amputation. During observation, the viewer acts as surgeon or message therapist. Cutting open and scrutinizing the parts, the viewer is able to “see” the inner workings, or mentally remove what appears to be cancerous. The viewer can also knead and apply pressure to the various knots and underlying tensions. Some may not desire such an intimate encounter with another person’s vision and there may be no immediate connection. The viewer moves on.

Still, paintings act as prisms, funneling in the artists’ life influences and then projecting back an embellished interpretation, which is then further analyzed by the observer, and the cycle continues. Parameters have already been set, and each artist works closely within these or breaks free with total abandon, shaping the end results and producing an idea spectrum. Does the artist in fact go beyond the frame, or is there a more fenced-in approach to grouping ideas?

After the last comments have been uttered, the healing process can begin. New points of view are applied like salve, and each one chooses whether or not to swallow the bitter tonics, said to be good for you.

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