Margaret Olley and Donald Friend Art Criticism and Art History Visual Arts Syllabus Support Stage 6 Art Criticism The chief goal of art criticism is understanding. We need a way of looking at art objects that will give an insight into the meaning and merits. The second goal is to increase pleasure. As a social motive, criticism allows discussion about art. When critics write, they are joining in a conversation with the art, the artist, the viewer, and with history. They are engaging the wider culture in a debate about the nature of our time and the objects made or valued. A critic must have a wide knowledge of art through study and looking at art and a reasonable appreciation of the creative act either through experience or study. Critics should be able to judge quality in relation to form and content. He or she should open readers to new ideas and emotional qualities. ...there are two wonderful paintings, from 1947 and 1948 - Still Life in Green and Still Life with Pink Fish - that are worth the trip alone. They are paintings that suggest a very gifted colourist. In Still Life in Green, the painting’s dark tones allow its array of greens to hum in a lower register with it’s mellow red fruit and a lighter pink cushion up in one corner. Similarly the following year’s painting subtley orchestrates the pink of the ﬁsh with the rich yellow of the apples and daisies and the khaki greens of the pears and artichoke. They are unusual, provocative combinations. Friend’s work tends to rivet one’s attention...just because you get the feeling from every last thing he did that he was absolutley dripping with talent. He only rarely succumbed to self satisﬁed virtuousity (in his drawings of Balinese and other boys, most conspiciously), and even when he did it is hard to leave off looking. The late watercolours here are stupendously assured. It is difﬁcult to believe thast the man who made them was ravaged by illness and two or three years from death. Look out, too, for Friend’s Hill End Landscape, from about 1951. It is a small, brightly coloured thing, but the freedom of its drawing and the conﬁdence of its colour help it to avoid the kitschy look of minituarist art. Sweet it may be, but it kicks with life (Sebastian Smee, Weekend Australian Arts, 17-18/12/05). Activity: Exhibition Review In the quote above, critic Sebastian Smee recommends a visit to the exhibition and describes his favourite works. Imagine you are writing a review of the exhibiton for a newspaper. Pick out two paintings by each artist and include a description of those works in your review. Notice how Smee also describes what it is that he likes about the work. Think about what you like about your favourite works and how you would describe those elements to your audience. Art History The role of the critic and the historian are overlapped and intrisically linked. In art criticism and art history students learn how judgement contributes to the development of well reasoned accounts. Judgement plays a prominent role in criticism in terms of arguing a case about the qualities of an artwork and also plays a central role in how a case may be assembeld in art history. The relationship between the artist, the critic and the historian may be understood though the: WORLD ARTWORK AUDIENCE ARTIST The conceptual framework above covers the agencies of the artworld and encomapsses a larger view of the study of art objects. Description, interpretation, evaluation are the traditional methods for coming to grips with a work of art. Description involves ﬁnding out all you can of what the thing is: technically, materially. Interpretation involves what you think is the meaning of the work. Bearing in mind that these are always multiple: personal, public, realist, mystical, pragmatic... whatever it takes to half guess, half understand what is at stake: for the artist, for the gallery, for the audience, or in terms of art history. Evaluation is what you think of as the pay-off. Your judgement about whether you thought it worked or not (rather than just if you liked it or hated it). It’s been my experience that a student who only cares about whether something is “good” or “bad” is likely to think it’s the only evaluation you need to make. (Alexander quoted in Malyon) Activity: Artists in History Research the artists Olley and Friend from a variety of different art books and websites. Australian art sites books will probably be your best bet and will have more information. Create a timeline that shows the chronology of Australian Art from the 1930’s to the present. Include major worldwide events and a focus on the works of Donald Friend and Margaret Olley. Also include other Australian artists who would have been practicing at the same time as these two artists. Compare the works by Margaret Olley to the works by Donald Friend. What elements are different and which are similar? Do you think the artists would have inﬂuenced each others work? Conceptual Framework During the war years, and those immediately afterwards, many artists remained determinedly ﬁgurative. A number of artists also travelled to remote areas of the country to repond to the landscape. Australian artists during the 1940s were responding to the difﬁcult times and many returned from experiences of war with images of isolation. Both Margaret Olley and Donald Friend draw and paint from a tradition of art that takes into account the lineage of Australian and international artiists. This means that for hundreds of years artists have been drawing and painting the ﬁgure. Still life was made famous by masters such as Mignon and Morandi, continuing on with artists who work with. In the case of Donald Friend who works across multiple genres and subject matter, the audience can look back at Italian Renaissance depictions of the human ﬁgure. Artists working at the same time as eachother often inﬂuence and are in turn inﬂuenced by one another. Where friendships and art groups form, we often see the emergence of an art movement or a manifesto. The role of the critic and the historian then is one of recounting art trends and movenents and placing artists within a context. All art is, in a sense, a product of the time and place it was created as well as being a cultural artifact. The subjective perspective an artist uses, creates a personal response that is unique and may be valued as a creative process. Donald had always been canny about money. He kept the prices for his work within the scope of most people, so sold very well. “Better to sell half a dozen paintings reasonably than be left with ﬁve over-priced masterpieces” he said when once when we were discussing values and sales of various works (Donald Friend in Gwen Friend My Brother Donald, 1994). “On the resale of art, everyone makes money, but the artist is forgotton” (John Olsen. Painter and winner of the 2005 Archibald Prize). Art dealers make a living by reselling works by respected artists. This quote demonstates the way artists work increases in value over time. In fact many artists believe in a “resale royalty” being established so that the artists and their families may beneﬁt from this rise in value especially relevant after an artist has passed away. If we compare the prices of artworks created by artists such as Margaret Olley or Donald Friend ﬁfty years ago we vcan see a huge jump in the resale value of the work. Activity Using the words below create a paragraph that describes the relationship between the agencies of the artworld. Focus on the links between these different aspects of art and the inﬂuences they would have on one another. WORLD ISSUES ARTIST AUDIENCE EVENTS GLOBAL ART POSTMODERN IDENTITY LINKS WITH PAST TRADITIONS VALUE ARTIST RELATIONSHIPS WORLD INVESTMENT COMMODITY ART BUYERS DEALERS GENERAL PUBLIC IDEAS COUNTRY COMMUNICATION ICULTURE MASS MEDIA INTERPRETATION SCHOOLS TRAINING ARTISTS MOTIVATION REASONS TO CREATE ART TRENDS MOVEMENTS INFLUENCED CRITICS HISTORIANS Some questions the art historian and art critic might ask What is it? Who made it? When? What is it made of? Who owns it? What is going on in it? Where is it? artwork What does it mean? How did it come here? How is it presented? Who looks at it? Art history is mostly concerning the history of works of art and how they were made. It is also used to understand why some artists and artworks get discussed and why others don’t. Art criticism is more about which artworks and artists are valued by their audiences and the world. A judgement about a work can be made and an argument must be backed up with reasons why. Looking at artworks is a very important way to understand and begin writing about them. Activity Using the diagram above as a guide, choose an artwork from the exhibition and answer the questions in your VAPDs.