Australian Fine Artist

Detecting change in the content of art criticism

Our first topic in this class today (17th July) was briefly to look at the Sydney Biennale for 2012. Many of us can’t get to this event so will be going over the points by “distance learning”.

The directors of the event say that making compassion and inclusion is an antidote to the ideas of negativity, alienation and separation that have been used in the radical arts.

The goals are those of collaboration, conversation and inclusiveness as an underpinning for this year.

Here is some information from the advertising material for the event:


“Every two years, the Biennale of Sydney is presented free to the public over a 12-week period. As the most exciting contemporary visual arts event in the Asia-Pacific region, the 18th Biennale of Sydney will celebrate the organisation’s 39th anniversary and will take place from 27 June – 16 September 2012.

Sydney is privileged to host one of the most celebrated and respected biennale exhibitions in the world. Alongside the Venice and São Paolo biennales and documenta, it is one of the longest running exhibitions of its kind and was the first biennale to be established in the Asia-Pacific region.

The inaugural edition in 1973 also heralded the new generation of biennale exhibitions, whose primary aim is to provide a platform for individual artists, their creativity and ideas, rather than representations of nationhood. This pivotal position has endowed the Biennale of Sydney with the confidence to explore varying terrains and break new ground in each edition.

Since its inception, the Biennale of Sydney has provided an international platform for innovative and challenging contemporary art, showcasing the work of more than 1500 artists from over 83 countries. In 2010, the 17th Biennale of Sydney received more than half a million visitors.

The 18th Biennale of Sydney will be rooted in storytelling as it is currently being re-imagined as a coming-into-being in relation. In the reciprocity that is storytelling, both teller and listener inhabit the space of the story. Telling stories connects us and allows us to care, to be; it fosters collaboration; it aggregates knowledge and generates new ideas; it ignites change; and, ultimately, builds community.”

I am sure we will discuss this event further as people come back with their own stories.

Matthew Collings’ Video “What is Beauty”

Next we were posed the question, ” What is the zeitgeist of our times?”. This sent many rushing to Google for a translation of zeitgeist, which is basically translated from German as the spirit of an age or climate of an era, the cultural climate if you will. This can be reflected in the political, social, ethical, spiritual or general cultural climate of a nation or even specific groups along with the general ambience, morals, socio cultural direction and mood of an era.

This was followed by a video by Matthew Collings called “What is Beauty”.

Matthew asked us how do we define beauty? Is it subject, colour, composition? Is it timely? Is it subjective?

We were then introduced to ten basic ideas that he held as a basis of understanding and deciding on what makes something beautiful to us or to others.


The Millau bridge in France was chosen as the subject for discussion. Beauty is was said reflects how it fits in with it’s natural surroundings. How it sits in the landscape. How has it been designed to create a sense of lightness and of calm whilst being very functional?


For this we went to the Renaissance period in Italy. Piero della Francesca painted his works with a simplicity of line and colour. The balance and symmetry communicated very clearly the spiritual story that was the basis of the work. The use of colour and light in balance made it attractive and important for conveying a message ,especially in a time where reading was not widely taught.


12th Century Norman churches are a good example of unity of design and flow of patterns and images. The architecture was designed to create the perfect setting for the images around the building. A whole experience in a spiritual setting was the goal. The reflective surfaces of gilding and colour in each picture worked with each other from floor to wall to ceiling tied together with the support and balance of the building.


When something in the world is translated or interpreted in the mind to a new representation, we can call in transformation. Examples may be those of cave paintings where ancient man found “power” over the animals they hunted by putting them into the nearby caves. The images gained a new meaning than that of a mere picture of an elk for instance. So today, we put new meaning into things we may draw, paint or sculpt. In our interpretation we see it according to our view of the world. Viewers may come along and place their own views on what they see which can be totally different to anyone else’s, including that of the artist.


Where and how art is set up can have an effect on how the art is viewed. Have a look at the differences in galleries over the years and what kind of art they choose to show. Rooms in the same venue may be totally remade to show artworks to the best advantage and sometimes gain a character all of their own. Placement of art in churches through history can be similar.


I actually use the word “flow” which I think relates to this as well. A totally “static” painting or any artwork can lose your attention more quickly than one that has something going on, or lines and shapes to invite you to investigate further. Look at the lesson of the Sistine Chapel where the stories flow from one panel to another inviting us to work our way around the ceiling and walls. Addition of movement via line, composition of focal points, adding animals or birds, or creative use of light can give the impression of “animation” or flow.


The addition of something that stops you, or makes you think can create interest for the viewer. Think about colour, line and composition that is for example unusual or unexpected. This may require planning, but can create drama and give depth to the story you are telling. A traditional method or story can be told in a new way, seriously or having fun with it, done well and thoughtfully can create a successful work.


A good example is Roman mosaics. Nature and pattern were used together. You can also look at the work of the Celts whose intricate use of patterns created some amazing jewellery and clothing as well as architecture and artworks. Line and colour can be reproduced to make up pattern, as well as repeated imagery.


Basically this is the decision process. What subject matter and how it is to be organised. How everything is chosen to work as a whole, how elements and relationships between them are organised by the artist. As artists, we decide on how we want to represent our ideas. What materials do we want to use, what style and method and how do we want is shown?


The basic lesson I got from this section was to be honest and have integrity, from spontaneity and tapping into the real you will come honest art that you can relate to. See Gauguin who, even with horrid surroundings at the end of his life, tapped into an inner place of peace and brought that out in his paintings. By pushing yourself and continually reaching for that flow of line and form to create your own unique artworks you also find yourself.

So here we are, at the end of these ten ideas. Like or lump agree or disagree there are tips in them can prompt a little thought that may further our progress as artists.

Art in its many forms can be beautiful to someone, if not everyone. We all have our own reactions and preferences whether they be traditional or contemporary. Beauty will always be reinvented to create it in new expressions.



Comments on: "The 2012 Biennale & Matthew Collings’ Video “What is Beauty”" (1)

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