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Art Critism – Four Levels of Formal Analysis

Art-Criticism-Steps.jpg

Four levels of formal analysis, which you can use to explain a work of art:

Description = Pure description of the object without value judgments, analysis, or interpretation.

It answers the question, “What do you see?” The various elements that constitute a description include:

  • Form of art whether architecture, sculpture, painting or one of the minor arts
  • Medium of work whether clay, stone, steel, paint, etc., and technique (tools used)
  • Size and scale of work (relationship to person and/or frame and/or context)
  • Elements or general shapes (architectural structural system) within the composition, including building of post-lintel construction or painting with several figures lined up in a row; identification of objects
  • Description of axis whether vertical, diagonal, horizontal, etc.
  • Description of line, including contour as soft, planar, jagged, etc.
  • Description of how line describes shape and space (volume); distinguish between lines of objects and lines of composition, e.g., thick, thin, variable, irregular, intermittent, indistinct, etc.
  • Relationships between shapes, e.g., large and small, overlapping, etc.
  • Description of color and color scheme = palette
  • Texture of surface or other comments about execution of work
  • Context of object: original location and date

Analysis = determining what the features suggest and deciding why the artist used such features to convey specific ideas.

It answers the question, “How did the artist do it?” The various elements that constitute analysis include:

  • Determination of subject matter through naming iconographic elements, e.g., historical event, allegory, mythology, etc.
  • Selection of most distinctive features or characteristics whether line, shape, color, texture, etc.
  • Analysis of the principles of design or composition, e.g., stable, repetitious, rhythmic, unified, symmetrical, harmonious, geometric, varied, chaotic, horizontal or vertically oriented, etc.
  • Discussion of how elements or structural system contribute to appearance of image or function
  • Analysis of use of light and role of color, e.g., contrasty, shadowy, illogical, warm, cool, symbolic, etc.
  • Treatment of space and landscape, both real and illusionary (including use of perspective), e.g., compact, deep, shallow, naturalistic, random
  • Portrayal of movement and how it is achieved
  • Effect of particular medium(s) used
  • Your perceptions of balance, proportion and scale (relationships of each part of the composition to the whole and to each other part) and your emotional
  • Reaction to object or monument

Interpretation = establishing the broader context for this type of art.

It answers the question, “Why did the artist create it and what does it mean. The various elements that constitute interpretation include:

  • Main idea, overall meaning of the work.
  • Interpretive Statement: Can I express what I think the artwork is about in one sentence?
  • Evidence: What evidence inside or outside the artwork supports my interpretation

Judgment: Judging a piece of work means giving it rank in relation to other works and of course considering a very important aspect of the visual arts; its originality.

Is it a good artwork?

  • ·Criteria: What criteria do I think are most appropriate for judging the artwork?
  • Evidence: What evidence inside or outside the artwork relates to each criterion?
  • Judgment: Based on the criteria and evidence, what is my judgment about the quality of the artwork?

Barrett’s Principles of Interpretation

  1.  Artworks have “aboutness” and demand interpretation.
  2. Interpretations are persuasive arguments.
  3. Some interpretations are better than others.
  4. Good interpretations of art tell more about the artwork than they tell about the critic.
  5. Feelings are guides to interpretations.
  6. There can be different, competing, and contradictory interpretations of the same artwork.
  7. Interpretations are often based on a worldview.
  8. Interpretations are not so much absolutely right, but more or less reasonable, convincing, enlightening, and informative.
  9. Interpretations can be judged by coherence, correspondence, and inclusiveness.
  10. An artwork is not necessarily about what the artist wanted it to be about.
  11. A critic ought not to be the spokesperson for the artist.
  12. Interpretations ought to present the work in its best rather than its weakest light.
  13. The objects of interpretation are artworks, not artists.
  14. All art is in part about the world in which it emerged.
  15. All art is in part about other art.
  16. No single interpretation is exhaustive of the meaning of an artwork.
  17. The meanings of an artwork may be different from its significance to the viewer. Interpretation is ultimately a communal endeavor, and the community is ultimately self- corrective.
  18. Good interpretations invite us to see for ourselves and to continue on our own

References

  • Barrett, Terry. (1994) Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company.
  • Art Critism Activity
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WAYS TO THINK ABOUT ART

WAYS TO THINK ABOUT ART

Although sometimes contradictory, all the following ideas, drawn both from the past and present, help illuminate the mutlifaceted nature of art.

  1. Art as behavior. Throughout human history, art has not always been viewed as separate human endeavor in which only trained artist participates but rather as daily part of life. In some societies art is so integral to the fabric of the community that the language lacks of special word for it (Ember & Ember, 1996). Ellen Dissanayake argues persuasively that art making is not the province of a few but is a normal behavior and psychological need to make things special. Art is taking ordinary things to making them more than ordinary so that attention is drawn to them. Regarding art as a behavior – an instance of ‘making special’ “she suggests, “shift the emphasis…to the activity itself (the making or doing and appreciating). Seeing art as behavior that all people, not just specialists, engage in enlarges and enriches our understanding of art and makes it inclusive rather than exclusive, a vital part of being human.
  2. Art as Culture. Across the nature of the works produced varies tremendously. Visual images and form have been used to communicate idea, ask and answer question, stir emotions, provide comfort and spur money. People have used a variety of tools and materials to tell stories and record their history. Images and symbol are intimately involved:
    •  Religious
    • Political
    • Ceremonial

The cultural traditions and belief also influence the artwork looks and values. An object will be deemed art if it fits a cultural identified with an acceptable artistic purpose. Tradition, religion, politics or current taste may dictate what subjects and purposes are acceptable for artistic pursuits. Only certain types of art tools and materials may available or allowed. What is rejected as art in one time and place maybe valued in another. Van Gogh’s paintings, for example, were disparaged in his own time but are now acclaimed. As such, artworks become the embodiment of cultural fashion and beliefs. “Artistic activities are always in part, cultural, involving shared and learned patterns of behavior, belief and feeling” (Ember & Ember, 1996). Today we can look at the art of the past and of other cultures as a document to be read. It provides a way to understand other people’s lives.

  1. Art as Conscious Creation. Art is often defined in terms of its composition or appearance. Works of art can be compared to objects both natural and human-made. For example, what is the difference between a smoothly carved sculpture and a well-weathered piece of driftwood? It has been argued that to be art an object must be the product of human thought, imagination and worship rather than being accidental or found in nature. But if the difference a natural object and work of art is the intecedence of a human mind and hand, then how can artworks be differentiated from human-made works? One way to distinguish between their purposes. Utilitarian objects simply make life more hygienic and physically comfortable. Art objects make it more beautiful and interesting. People can wrap themselves in plain cloth or wear elaborately and styles garments. The difference between the two can be seen as art.
  2. As as craft. The latin word ars, form which art derives, originally meant finely or skillfully crafted. Many people feel that in order for something to be valued as art, it should demonstrate a high level of technical skill, its materials carefully chosen to fulfill the final product’s intended purpose. If something is art, it because it is well crafted and suited to its purpose.
  3. Art as Self Expression. We express ourselves when we give vent to our despest feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Creating art is one way for individuals to do this. Art has often described as a window into artist’s soul. The artist has seen as the instrument of making the emotions of the subconscious visible. The practice of art therapy is built this belief that art is a reflection of the subconscious. A patient may asked to create art freely or in response to suggestion, which a trained therapist the carefully analyzes.
  4. Art as Historical Construct. How people view art has varied throughout history. At different times objects have been recognized as art based on the general preferences of the period of this such as:
    • Early Art – 19th century
    • Rocky Beginnings
    • Renaissance
    • Baroque
    • Rococo
    • Impressionism
    • Early 20th Century Art
    • Post- Impressionism
    • Expressionism
    • Cubism
    • Dadaism
    • Surrealism
    • Late 20th Century
    • Abstract Expressionism
    • Pop Art
    • Environmental Art and Installation
    • Postmodern
  5. Art as Symbol System. One of the difficulties in looking at art from this entire different viewpoint is that it is easy to lose sight of what all art has in common. Whether it expresses and emotion conveys a religious belief or performs a function, a work of art transforms human experiences into culturally understandable visual symbols to communicate meaning.
  6. Art as Aesthetic Experience. Art is often defined by the aesthetic reaction it causes in the viewer. When we speak something from aesthetic point of view, we attending to those features of its design and appearance. The aesthetic required us to understanding, feelings, questioning, analyzing, and reaction.
  7. Art as Play. George Szekely believes that having fun is the prime motivation making art. The physical activity of creating art such as pushing and pulling clay, making broad strokes of color and tearing paper, can excite the senses and produce feelings of pleasure. The artist playfully explore materials and ideas trying out possible combination, rejecting some, selecting others, and deriving pleasure from finishing a work.

TASK 1: Discuss about the nature of arts, what do you understand the meaning of art as form

TASK 2: Could you find the each following viewpoint has been proposed as a way to differentiate art from human activities and illuminate certain aspect of art?

  • Behavioural
  • Conceptual
  • Contextual
  • Expressive
  • Formal
  • Mimesis
  • Relative
  • Symbolic

FIVE DIFFERENT SOURCES WHERE ARTISTS GET IDEAS IN PRODUCING AN ARTWORK.

Natural and Cultural Environment

Sometimes artists look to their natural surroundings and record them. They painted the things that they see for example landscape around them. They were paying meticulous attention to realistic detail.

People and Real World Event

There are some artists like to express them ideas and feeling on a poster champagne or a painting about the world scenario such as currency crisis now day, people are jobless, world wars, people suffering on disease, nature pollution etc.

Myths and Legends

Some artists borrow ideas from famous works of literature. The ideas probably based from legends or fairytales story for example about the adventures that befall a super hero or urban legends returning form war. Surrealism artists utilizing the dream influences and sub-consciousness as inspiration in making artworks.

Spiritual and Religious Beliefs

Visual artists in every culture use their skills to create objects and images to be used to express spiritual beliefs. Those who create objects do the best work they can because it is important such as a sculpture of Hinduism that they believe it represented they god.

PURPOSES OF PRODUCING ART

Personal Functions

Artists create art to express personal feeling. Edward Munch had a tragic childhood. His mother died when he was very young, and one of his sisters died when he was 14. He painted The Sick Child in 1907 using oil paint on canvas. (Give relevance example of artist and the artwork)

Social Functions

Artists may produce art to reinforce and enhance the shares sense of identity of those in a family, community or civilization. Art produced for this purpose also may be used in celebrations and displayed on festive occasions.

Spiritual Functions

Artists may create art to express spiritual beliefs about the destiny of life controlled by force of higher power. Art produced for this purpose may reinforce the shared beliefs of an individual or a human community.

Physical Functions

Artist and craftspeople constantly invent new ways to create functional art. Industrial designers discover materials that make cars lighters and stronger. Architects employ new building materials such as steel-reinforced concrete to give buildings more interesting forms.

Educational Functions

Art was often created to provide visual instruction. Artists produced artworks, such as symbols painted on signs, to improve information. Viewers could learn from theirs artworks.

 THE ROLE OF ART IN SCHOOL

If art is defined as a language, then its role in education becomes clear; its provides another way that children can learn and express themselves. The language of art can be used in all ways that oral and written language can:

  • To Teach. Art can be used to present a new concept. Artwork can show children images that words alone can desribe only superficially.
  • To Provide Practice. Childern can create artworks that use the concept being taught. For example, after learning that stories have beginnings and endings, students can draw pictures that show something starting and ending
  • To Record. Art provides graphic images that students can use to record and remember in science experiments, on field trips, in stories read and more.
  • To Respond. The languange of art responsive. Student can create visual symbols to represent what they understood and felt, such graphically showing the feelings of different characteristic in book they have read.
  • To Access. The teachers can use paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other art forms to analyze how well the student learned. A detailed painting of life in pioneer day or the daily cycle of a butterfly can graphically what the student knows abot the subject.

Those kind of activities are found in many classrooms. Perhaps because there are more similarities in the appearance of early writing and art, they are more likely to occur in the ealiest school years.

TASK 3: Based on your daily routine as a teacher, what is your role be an art teacher in your school?

  Checklist

  • Know the nature of visual arts
  • Know the ideas and resources
  • Know the purpose of doing artwork
  • Know the role of art in school

 References

  1. Joan Bouza Koster (2001). Bringing Art into the Elementary Classroom. US: Wadworth