Writing about Art

For me, words and pictures are inextricably linked.


The greatest writing is that which creates pictures in the readers mind - whether it is of a new, imaginary, world; or just a shifted perspective on the world that we already see.

And the greatest art will "speak to" the viewer; leading to new thoughts, feelings, discussions, or other expression.


After all, both these - and, indeed, most other - art forms are motivated by the same core desires. Namely, to touch people. To make them feel.

So it is strange to see how so much of what we could label as "art literature" tends to fall into two categories.

Critical Or Academic.


(Note: I will not be dealing with art in fiction here - though there are some very entertaining works of fiction which have art and artists as their centre)


Now, of course, these two genres are extremely broad; coming in a whole host of different forms.

But, to speak very generally:


Critical art writing is basically what we find in magazines, newspapers, blogs, and other media. (Opinion based; intended to inform the reader about the contents of a certain show or display; and to rate it as good or bad, depending on the particular reviewer's preferences.)


And Academic writing is more what we find in books, scholarly journals, exhibition catalogues, and other more formal outlets. (The intention here is to go into greater depth about the work or the artist. Dealing with their history. Their contribution. The method of work or motivation etc.)


So, without question, both of these mediums are extremely valuable in helping us to understand the history of art. And to judge particular works, or artists, as part of a wider whole, rather than only in isolation.


But, i feel like there is further category of Art writing too. One which, as a result of the two already mentioned, is so often neglected.

And this is what i like to think of as the "poetic".


Poetic art writing still comes with the express intention of informing and educating a reader.

However, it does this not by relaying academic facts or histories - but, rather, by focusing on deeply on the experience of a piece.

How does it feel to witness a certain work first hand.

What are the emotions? What are the stories contained? (fictional or real). How can it change our lives?


These are the non material elements of great art. And, to my mind, the true essence it.


So, even though i am definitely someone with a deep love for studying art history - i do find it a shame that the poetry of art so often gets relegated to something of a footnote; only addressed after we have dealt with questions like "What year was the work created" "Where was the artist born" "Who owns the piece now (or who owned it in the past)" etc.


As i said at the start of this article - i believe that the greatest art can inspire the greatest poetry.

And, as such, i wish to conclude this article with an open request.

Addressed to all art writers - Academic, Critic, or Poetic. (Including myself - as i am sure i will need the reminder at some point too)


Be as accurate as you can be.

But, at the same time, do not allow yourself to be so immersed in facts and figures, that you become closed off to emotion or passion.






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