Thoughts About “The Crit”

Last week Friday, there was a critique session for the art students at the college. While the Trouble Tree group did not have to present work it was the 2nd year BFA students who had to step up to bat. Being a part of that session reminded me how being in that position felt, as well as indicated how much I have grown up in the Fine Arts program. As the title suggests, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts about the critique.

For anyone who has never been in this position, for many individuals, a critique is a far from comfortable experience. Not only do you feel the heat from being in the ‘spotlight’, you feel like almost everything you do/say is being scrutinized under a magnifying glass by the multiple eyes around you. Yes, it helps to rehearse and prepare but sometimes even the coolest/most confident characters feel the pressure when in a real life situation. Experience is perhaps the best way to develop a real sense of security when in a critique, but, we only gain this experience by being in critiques over and over again.

On Friday, the need to conceptualize and properly articulate one’s work seemed to be a sticking point. In the art world there appears to be a demand for work to have some sort of intellectual rigor in order for it to be top quality. Or so it appears to me. That said, however, there is a fine line between having a sound concept and having the work lost in a myriad of ideas. There is a need to speak about your work confidently and informatively but often too much discussion/explanation leads to confusion. This line was crossed not only on Friday but in other practicing artists’ talks and it begs the question why it occurs. Perhaps we are fully in the artistic climate where we feel ideas are more important than the actual work. Whatever the case, I feel that while a visual artist should fundamentally be able to articulate his/her own work well, what is said should act as a base while the artwork ‘does the talking’.

The other point which caught my attention on Friday was the issue of feedback. As artists we all open ourselves to criticism whenever we show work. It places us in a vulnerable state but it’s what comes with the territory. However, as much as we may not like to be criticized there is more often than not, some benefit to it. Good constructive criticism may cause us to rethink ideas or view them from angles we never even considered, and in those cases where we think the criticism is rubbish and unfounded we have a great opportunity to defend our work and prove its strength. That however, lies with the artist. In my experience in this institution, I will say it is better to receive honest, unbiased (even if a bit harsh at times) feedback than the ‘buttered up’ answers we wish to hear.

-Ronald

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