On Saturday 23rd September at 11am about a dozen artists gathered in the LightSpace Gallery for the purpose of having examples of their paintings critiqued by Sir Grahame Sydney. Like me, most of them would be feeling a little anxious at having their works critiqued by one of New Zealand’s best-known artists. We need not have worried as it soon became evident that the critiques were going to be a positive and helpful experience.
Sir Grahame started by telling us of his own path from his childhood days in Dunedin, his experience of overseas travel and return to New Zealand and his determination to become a professional artist here. The importance of good luck was also acknowledged.
An important part of Sir Grahame’s talk was about the artist having a clear idea of their motivations and an awareness of external influences. A belief that their work should come from a deep internal feeling and to guard against being influenced by any comments (both good or bad) from others. He spoke of resisting throughout his career the pressure to conform to some popular or expected style or produce works that conform to contemporary cultural concerns. The hope being that eventually the viewing public will come to appreciate the works. This need for the artist to only express their own deeply held individual feelings was reinforced several times during the following critiques.
The critiques began with Sir Grahame asking us to think of five words to describe something of our personality. In turn each artist placed 4 or 5 examples of their work on easels in front of the assembled group. Sir Grahame then glanced over the paintings, quickly assessing them and then prompting the artist to comment on their works, their motivations and experience. There followed discussion which lasted up to 25 minutes covering not only the matters outlined above but also more technical matters such as composition, effective contrast, handling of edges, pattern and texture etc. While the works covered a wide range of styles, subject matter and media, and all were very different from Sir Grahame’s own works, he was able to point out areas for improvement and make suggestions for consideration for each. The opportunity to see a wide range of works being critiqued by a very experienced artist gave a valuable insight into how the individual artist should approach critiquing their own works.
The critiques ended at 6pm, an hour later than expected but I am sure all the artists felt they had had a very rewarding experience and left with a lot to think about.
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