It is a phenomenon that can strike fear into the heart of an art student, and many an ex-art student too. Depends on your experiences. Some that I’ve heard about, frankly, leave a lot to be desired and say more about the tutors’ quest for power and control that the desired development of the artist.
I know that I have been lucky. My experiences have been good, supportive and enlightening!
(There was one exception from a visiting artist during my MA that really upset me… it was of the leap to conclusions variety… “Ah! I see before me a middle aged woman with a quilt, probably bored housewife… therefore I shall be vile to her to make me feel all powerful… MWAH HAHHAAAA!!!”
I was saved from destruction by The Sainted Henry Rogers who said “You don’t have to believe her if you choose not to. It’s your work!”)
The Crit then… I decided ages ago that I wanted to set up a crit group of some sort, the positive, enlightening sort, not the other sort. So now having moved into the new studio I got it started. I was determined to start, just to get going, even if there were just two of us to begin with, to establish a habit and a pattern for myself as much as anything.
Yesterday was the first one, and it was just the two of us really, Just me and Bo. But I can’t tell you how much it helped.
There was a lot of sitting and looking, not saying much. Bit of thinking, humming and hawing too.
But what was said was interesting. The discussion prompted me to think about different angles. I considered everything in front of me, and some things once I got started, were obvious. You just don’t look at your own work “properly” without an audience I don’t think. The Crit, when conducted properly, constructively and respectfully, helps you see it through someone else’s eyes.
While I was doing the MA it used to take me about three weeks to process the content of a crit, not able to work until it had all sunk in. But even today I can see ways that I can try a few things out to help the thinking. It also can take a while to filter out what you disagree with. As with the dreadful woman described above, there will always be a percentage of things I disagree with, either to do with content, or concept, or process…
Bo is very good at pushing the thought along for me. There are things I disagree with… I’m currently thinking that I don’t need to separate the elements out so much as he suggested… But I may change my mind as I work. He has always been good at snatching away the comfort blanket I am prone to wrapping myself in. He has a way of raising his eyebrows… “really?”… He is a good teacher. I continue to learn.
The work is very close to me. It has a high emotional content. I am perched close to an edge. I am protective of it, and myself. It is hard to trust it to the crit… so at the moment I am only inviting people I know. Bo knows that this work has emerged from a tricky place. But he also knows that because it means a lot to me, I want it to be critically sound… I don’t want to be making excuses for it.