We need to talk about art

When no one is left: The crisis in Australian arts coverage‘ in the Monthly is a reflection on the lack of Arts criticism in Australia and the ever increasing failure to provide opportunities to discuss and critique  – whether it be film, the visual arts or performances.   Anwen Crawford outlines the issues in the recent article in the Monthly:

As critic Alison Croggon wrote in this publication late last year, in this country, art “is considered a leisure activity, a luxury for the elite, an entertainment in the most reductive senses of the word, a value-free product”.  As a nation, we are hostile to self-examination, which is a part of what art and arts criticism can do. We don’t want to hear that we are anything but the fair-go larrikins who carry the spirit of the Anzacs in their hearts, or something like that…

Talking about art is not something that seems to occur gracefully in Australia. We discuss what shows we’ve been too, and evaluate if they were ‘good’, but maybe that’s not the conversation we need to have. And perhaps we need to start actively encouraging discussion about film, and art, and the ever increasing number of our art shows that are moving towards spectacle, without any active critique.

The part of you that reads a review and thinks “Yes, but”, or “No, and”, is the part that has to be encouraged, given space, given a chance, in order for you to become a critic. But these spaces and these chances are being shut down or, worse, left open only to those who can afford to work for free, which is indeed a luxury.

The question is how to start talking.

Here’s 2 recent blogs I’ve been reading. And they are complete opposites.


The top floor at White Rabbit is always an eye-opener, and this time is no exception. Yang Mushi’s Grinding (2013-16) is a floor installation consisting of more than a thousand solid shapes – cubes, jagged shards, rounded lumps – all made from wood and coated in shiny black lacquer. It took the artist three years of unremitting toil to produce this piece, which is largely a memorial to its own creation. Yang’s labours symbolise the work ethic and social regimentation of contemporary China. It looks impressive when viewed in its totality, but each component is a meaningless fragment.


..chose Canberra based artist Kerry Johns’ work Flowers in the Window, as the winner. Kerry has contended with the problems of how to best fill the empty space that canvases begin as for a long time. Sometimes you just can’t beat experience. She combines a sophisticated palette, in greens and shades of purple, with an innovative interpretation of the genre of ‘still life’.

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