Monday 28 December 2020

Critique: Helpful or Hurtful

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in an on-line critique process.  I chose this work to have reviewed as I put an awful lot of effort into it and yet, have had it rejected from a few calls.  Since the figures are hand embroidered and the background is painted/printed/dyed I did wonder if it was this contrast that created a disconnect for the viewer.  

The viewers could only see the work from a distance on their screens but this vantage point brought out interesting points.  Although all comments were positive about the figures, there was much critical commentary about the background.  It wasn't what I expected.  Many didn't understand that the red painted shape was an apple, but even if it is, it was suggested that it is too close to the figures and out of scale.  
other comments included:
  • The dark spot over their heads was confusing
  • they seem to be floating over the background rather than IN the scenery
  • the little strip of blue sky at the top maybe unnecessary

Since I worked on the figures for so long I am willing to cut them out and re-create a new background for them.  That is definitely on my 'to-do' list.

However I wondered if you would be interested in weighing in on this critique, not to mention critiques in general.  I had thought that I was lucky to have been chosen by SAQA for this opportunity.  But some people have let me know that I was very brave to do this and they wouldn't be able to expose their work to strangers in this way.  What do you think?  Critique: helpful or hurtful?



  1. I agree that you were brave to engage in an online, live critique process! I imagine it could bring you helpful new insights but also be very stressful and, frankly, annoying. I'm curious whether the critiques you received went beyond comments about specific colours and shapes, and more into exploring the feelings and ideas your work conveys. With the former, I would expect personal preference to come into play and be almost irrelevant to you as the artist. with the latter, you would gain insight into whether anything you tried to express was shining through (e.g. I missed the apple too, and it kind of changes how I think about the piece and explore it more deeply.)

  2. thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. (wish I knew who you are to be able to thank you more personally). I found the comments with regards to the structure of the piece, composition, etc. to be interesting and helpful. With regard to the content: I do remember some comments like; "where are they going?" or "Is that hand supportive or pushing?". I intentionally leave a lot to the viewer to decide. I find more obvious work less interesting. If there is lots of room for interpretation, then the viewer has room to put themselves into the work, their own feelings and thoughts, which is what I hope for. I want the viewer to become engaged in the work that way.

  3. I like this piece exactly as it is. I think the background is gorgeous and love the embroidery. I think the sky is necessary to indicate that they are in the garden. The figures are the highlight and you were not going for a photographic type of image. It is not representational in that sense. That means the proportions can be whatever your aesthetic sense desires. They don't have to be accurate. Some of that critique sounds like telling Chagall that people don't fly, so his art needs changing. Soliciting critique is valuable, but I wouldn't take this particular critique as something that would lead you to change this piece.