Ben’s Ranting – Pretentious Art Language

I’ll put my hands up here and admit to you now in all honesty, despite being a practicing artist, I’m actually very bad at keeping up to date with current exhibitions and shows.

There are the few odd occasions, however, where I do pick up the ‘Culture’ section of The Times, or look online to see if there’s anything going on that’ll interest me. Sometimes when I read the information regarding an exhibition, or when I read anything art related, such as an essay, a review, and article or a critique, there is one thing that never fails to irk me and really put me off the art world;

The pretentious, non-sensicle language, more commonly referred to colloquially as ‘art speak’.

Here’s one such example;

‘In this gesturing with materials, the aesthetic, too, has been subordinated. Form, colour, composition, drawing are all auxiliaries, any one of which – or practically all, as has been attempted logically, with unpainted canvases – can be dispensed with. What matters always is the revelation contained in the act. It is to be taken for granted that in the final effect, the image, whether be or be not in it, will be a tension…’ (Getting Inside the canvas, page 589*)

After spending a few minutes with a dictionary and a thesaurus, (and a few penicillin tablets for my aching head) I roughly managed to translate that as

‘through the physical use of materials, the image, and any traditional rules regarding composition become supplementary. What is important is the action of painting itself, and we can assume that any imagery will interplay with the marks made’.

I don’t know about any of you, but I read such things and I am left perplexed. I literally haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re talking about. At the risk of sounding discourteous towards such authors, it almost seems as if they’re talking down to the reader. I, along with many others I’m sure, find it very off-putting. Is it really necessary to use such language?  I just think it’s such a shame. I truly believe that more people would get involved in art, (or more importantly, would want to get involved with art) if it was just that much more relatable to them is a less distorted way.

Of course, I am no essayist. I am far from being a ‘great’ or even a ‘good’ writer. I just write the way I would normally write. For those of you who followed me throughout my 365 day painting challenge, you would know that I wrote a short paragraph, or ‘blurb’ as I called it, which acted as a diary entry, basically describing my thoughts, feelings and what happened throughout the day. Those writings were in no way professional. I made up words, made sexual innuendos and the writings themselves were more of a stream of consciousness (only proofread for spelling and comprehension) as opposed to a well planned, thought out drafted essay. I realise that’s entirely different, I am not saying authors should make up words or innuendos. The point I was trying to make is, people enjoyed reading them. They could relate to it, and some even told me that they could relate what I had written that day to the painting produced on that day.

Is this language in art really necessary? I personally don’t think so. What I find ironic is the number of practising artists that agreed with me last year.

(* I apologise for the lack of information, but this particular excerpt was from a photocopied sheet, so the author and title are unknown).