This is almost a year of doing these Art Critiques and upon reflection it appears to be more about how to intensely observe and take in a work of art. Unlike a lot of art shows, or museum walks that one goes to, one rarely sits and observes a piece of artwork for any serious amount of time at all. In our critique we afforded at least 15 minutes of intense observations of the artwork, and from that intense exercise come inspirations that warrant a response. The artworks critiqued this evening was (for lack of a better word) modest, but as one observes them deeply a higher level of consciousness takes place and a richness of discussion that I rarely experience in any other way.
Thom was up first. The painting was an addition to the Global Warming series and continued the theme of energy being exchanged between two bodies. The texture of the painted surface is very interesting, and also added emphasis to the erratic nature of the motif. But there are areas in the painting that are more or less interesting than the other objects in the motif. For instance, we all agreed that the satellite type geometry at the bottom center of the painting was very interesting on its own, but did not play a major part in the allegory of the idea. Similarly, the triangular wedge type shapes seem to demand attention on their own, but detracted from the global warming idea. The excellence in this is the challenge Thom has imposed on himself to have strong compositional elements, but have them dance and comingle with each other with a specific message, and/or question. With this said the colors are very interesting and just needed a bit more saturation (which is noted by the red and deep orange bars in the picture done after the critique). There is this odd grey shape across the center of the work which works well within the chaos of the piece too; (this is an example of how an item like this works within the quirkiness of the painting as a whole). It is very fun stuff.
Donna brought in two pieces which really warrants discussion on both. The first was a dry-point etching that looked to me like a mezzotint. It is a very small print, approximate 4 inches square, but the delicacy of the line work and the softness of the printed technique provided for a very intimate amalgamation of observational care and sensitivity. The richness of the blacks was a testament to the great care in printing the plate, (which we Printmakers get very excited about). We didn’t have any constructive criticism of the work since it seemed very finished; it was also difficult to suggest any type of follow-up. It may just be one of those pieces that stands on its own and is best left alone as a work of art onto itself.
The second piece was a sketch of Balboa Park in San Diego, where the Cabrillo Bridge crosses of the 163 freeway (we San Deigans affectionately call it ‘Suicide Bridge’). The idea was to translate this into a larger drawing once the sketch was resolved. Since the drawing isn’t done yet, there were a lot of suggestions on how to bring it all together. The biggest challenged would be to resolve the perspective space. Western Artist define space very differently that Asian Artist which the drawing has elements of both. The typical Western landscape breaks up the depth with the three foreground/middle ground/background compositional elements. The more classical approach to the landscape makes use of atmospheric perspective and the more defined use of deep value shifts between the grounds. On the other, hand Japanese landscape prints show depth in space by partitioning many ground planes, not just three. Depth is illustrated by positioning closer objects at the bottom of the motif and the far off objects high on the print. This sketch hovered between both worlds. Donna could separate the composition such that the background tree line stands separated from the bridge and the foreground foliage could be more suggestive than exactly articulated as in a Japanese print. On the other hand, overlapping the various objects with a clear define one point perspective could unify the image as in classical Western landscape compositions. All in all, it will be interesting to see it develop over time.
We were very excited to have Edythe join the critique this month. She added greatly to the discussions and had a wealth of good ideas. Her work concentrated on the fashion industry and the plasticity of the Models. She created works that transformed the Models into garments standing stiffly posed and silhouetted around labels with terms like “Deformed, Abused and Rag Doll”. We found the use of button eyes, and stitched lips, particularly visceral and strange, this also added to the dehumanizing of the Models. The models are willowing away from dieting and dissolving into the space. Edvard Munch prints often have both the isolated figure in the background and another figure starring out of the picture plan. This method of layout confronts the viewer and is very successful in these pieces. I’m not a big fan of putting words on the surface of a piece since I don’t want the viewer to read the words and forget the image, which often happens when words are added. With the addition of stitching under the words it is even more obtrusive and directly focuses the viewer’s attention. Others agreed and suggested a more subdued approach to the words may be warranted in order to concentrate on the figures alone. But, all in all, these are interesting and provocative works done from a very meaningful Artist.
It was again a very pleasant evening with friends and colleagues sharing our work and ideas, which ultimately helps us with our body of work.