Does Australia really need another art blog? I don’t know, but I increasingly feel that I need a platform for writing art criticism – one that I control and that is not at the whim of newspaper and magazine editors.
When I realise that the first art critique that I published was forty years ago, I do feel like a fossil, one who wrote before computers or the Internet and at the time when the intrusiveness of spellcheck belonged to the realm of science fiction devoted to accounts of totalitarian regimes. Back then, it was just you and the art that you tried to explain and evaluate for your audience. I estimate that I have published over 3,000 art crits over all of these years and perhaps it is timely to take stock and reflect.
For me, art criticism always has both an exegetical and judicial function: you seek to explain, interpret and at times recreate or describe an art object, exhibition or art experience, as well as evaluate it and place it within a broader context of art history. In some ways, in the past decade or so, there has generally prevailed an era of politeness in Australian art criticism, where the regurgitation of institutional media releases passes for art criticism and art critics tread ever so carefully so as not to offend potential sponsors or other interested parties. In the trade it is known as being ‘streetwise’.
Perhaps we need a little bit more grit and vulgarity in our art criticism and words such as foolish, vacuous, self-indulgent and trite could be reintroduced into our lexicon, while terms including stunning, once in a lifetime, cutting edge and cute should be banned or at least treated with considerable caution.
Technology has completely re-shaped the writing of art criticism and the freedom of a blog, with its endless potential for links and illustrations frees us from the shackles that constrained the pioneers of art criticism and such luminaries as Denis Diderot, Charles Baudelaire and John Ruskin. There is little need for tedious descriptions of what we can now view in crisp, high-resolution colour reproductions. We have long suffered art criticism that has adopted an ethical stance or promoted the phoney analysis of formalism or has employed the art under question for a personal agenda or a construct of social and political theories.
A blog has the potential for greater immediacy and transparency. The readers can immediately see for themselves what is being discussed and assess the veracity of the claims being made. There are fewer constraints on space, fewer dictates from formatting and no consideration of sponsorship. While ten years ago we could still argue that access to a computer and the Internet was restricted to a minority, in the second decade of the 21st century it is the domain of the majority. It is also democratic, or at least this blog will be, with free and unimpeded access. You don’t have to buy a magazine, purchase access or special software, simply read what you want to read and for how long you want to read it.
For any writer, the size and calibre of readership is always a challenge and I have little idea if the audience for GAB will be a small circle of friends or a broader art public. In a way, this does not really matter: what is more important is that you can give voice to ideas that are close to your heart.
Whether they fall on fertile or barren ground is all a question of perception.
Sasha Grishin 1 November 2016
GRISHIN'S ART BLOG
Sasha Grishin AM, FAHA is the author of more than 25 books on art, including Australian Art: A History, and has served as the art critic for The Canberra Times for forty years. He is an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Curator at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Honorary Principal Fellow, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Melbourne.
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