Thursday, July 26, 2007
I have a bee in my bonnet about critique, and, inspired by the comments on Olga's blog on the topic, I thought I'd let the bee fly about a bit here, too ...no stinging, I promise! Lots of things have been written about critique, from an artist's point of view. I see critique as something different, I think; I see it as feedback. When I had a day job, I worked in Human Resource Development for a while, and gave workshops on 'giving feedback'. They were based on a couple of very simple premises. The first, is that we actually know how we did; the second, is that we can only digest feedback that we're ready to hear. Come to think of it, there's a third; we believe what we say, but we're less likely to believe what others tell us.
So how does that add up for a model of critique? My method of critique is to ask people questions about the work. I ask big, vague questions about the piece. I ask the artist what they're happy with about it, and what they're not so happy with. We explore the piece together. I might tell him/her how a particular section of the work affects me, and ask if that was the intention. Sometimes, we talk about things that seem to have no particular connection with the work at all. In the end, though, the artist tells him/herself what s/he really thinks, I listen, ask the odd question, and the process evolves. Sometimes the artist tells me things that s/he didn't know s/he knew about the work. Usually, we both learn something we didn't know.
Why do I work that way? Partly because I feel that this way of working is profoundly respectful of the artist and the work. It doesn't impose views, attitudes or opinions on the work or the artist; the critiquer responds to the artist, not the other way round. And partly because it is a process that can, in fact, be done to some extent alone, so if there isn't a handy viewer there to give critique, the artist can at least know some of the questions that might be asked in that process, and use them. That enables you to see your own work more clearly, I think. And that is a good reminder that we are, in fact, the only experts in our own work. Other people will not see what we see; they will see what they see, and the two will always be different, somehow, at some level. And yes, I do believe it is possible to do this online, but the conversation is of necessity stilted; much preferable to do this face to face. It is kinder, gentler, on both artist and critiquer that way. I'm considering offering this as a service, though I'm not sure if there's really any demand.
The picture is a section of the piece of lutradur I brought back from France, in a slightly new incarnation. I have put an orangey red wash over it, making it even more intense than it was. I have more plans for this piece, of course, and I'll keep you posted.