How the Exhibeo Jury Panel Judges Your Art
There is nothing in this world more subjective than one’s response to art. There is no scientific formula that can be applied across the spectrum of human artistic endeavour to guide us along our quest for objectively “good” art. So how do we go about judging the merits of your art with a degree of consistency? That is a good question and we will do our best to answer it.
Technique: In broad terms: how well do you master your technique and materials? How well does your technique harmonize with what the painting is about? Specifically, we’ll look at the following:
- Composition: How dynamic is it? Is it awkward without meaning to be? Where does the eye go in the painting and to what purpose? Does the composition contribute to the painting’s thematic unity and coherence? Is there a harmonious flow and balance between the key elements of the painting? If not, is this intentional and if it is, to what effect? So while we like beauty and harmony, we will also apply ourselves to wrapping our minds around pieces that are deliberately jarring so long as this can be coherently explained. In other words, what you are trying to say is totally relevant to how you present it to us through your visual composition. One way or another, the message and its delivery as compositional elements has to match up. For example, DeChirico had a lot of weird vanishing points and jarring perspectives in his work. This hugely contributed to the ominous metaphysical dreamscapes he was striving for. Thus his “bad” composition was actually rather brilliant, as it achieved a visual effect that was totally coherent with his goal. But you must be able to briefly articulate why you (for instance) break the rules of perspective. Otherwise bad composition might just be seen as incompetence.
- Drawing: While we recognize that a lot of fantastic art has nothing to do with one’s ability to draw, know that if your work is striving for a any degree of realism, we will definitely be looking at your drawing skills. We will be looking at proportion, perspective, volume, composition (again), and the overall values (shadows, mid tones and highlights) of the work. Even if your subject is more stylized like Matisse’s dancers in “The Dance”, the questions of proportion, line, volume and compositional flow still remain. Good drawing skills don’t necessarily translate to hyper-realistic art. The thing about good drawing skills is that if you don’t have them, it will show. Either you figure out how to work out your limitations, like Rothko and Pollock did (they both gave up producing art that highlighted their poor draftsmanship), or you learn how to draw in private and then once you’ve achieved some real skill, you can submit your work to public scrutiny without feeling crushed when they tell you you can't draw.
- Color: If you’re lacking in the drawing skills department, you better have an extra dose of skill as a colorist to compensate. Van Gogh had to work hard at being a decent draftsman and he really improved over time, but he was a first class colorist. If, like Rembrandt, you have a natural ability to draw and understand color, you’re in a very good place. Color translates directly into emotion, as well as acting as a bridge from sight to the remaining senses of taste, touch, smell and sound. There is a whole primal chain reaction in our inner core that takes place as a direct response to our encounter with specific colors or color combinations. Color is magic and visceral. Here again, the primary question we will ask ourselves is how does your use of color (or lack thereof) harmonize with what your painting is about? It is so easy to lose control of one’s palette and the effects can be disastrous. We probably won’t respond so well to a piece that throws everything including the kitchen sink onto the canvas in an indiscriminate manner.
- Handling your medium: Are you fumbling through your scumbling? How’s your brush/palette knife work? In other words, how do you handle the paint (or whatever other stuff is going on your surface)? How much control do you have over your medium? We’re all for spontaneity and impassioned impasto, but at the end of the day, we’re looking for some method behind the madness. On the opposite end of the spectrum, overly controlled attitudes towards medium can result in a really static, visually boring painting with absolutely no vitality to speak of. It all depends to what degree the artist has found his or her own idiosyncratic balance between control and release. As always, our main concern is: to what degree does your handling of your medium successfully contribute to your goals as a painter? We can’t (and won’t) say: “this painting is bad because the brushwork is not precise” because maybe wild brush work is an integral part of what makes that painting work. But we do look for a degree of artistic control... mastery over the medium. If the painting looks like something long forgotten at the back of the fridge but you tell us you where striving for a figurative nude à la Lucian Freud... welllllll... maybe you need to keep working at it.
The message behind the medium:
The best art says something important about the human condition. Art is fundamentally an anthropocentric enterprise. It is done by humans and viewed by humans. Of course, a wide range of techniques and a myriad of approaches to this human activity can be utilized, and exploring our existential condition need not feature actual humans as we strive to uncover some new insight about our relationship to every other thing that surrounds us. Just looking outward or inward is enough. In a write up of Alex Katz’s work, Robert Hughes (a recently deceased art critic that we enjoy quoting) took this artist to task for being overly concerned with style over substance. Katz articulated his total indifference to meaning by saying “I’d like for style to take the place of content, or the style to be the content... I prefer it to be emptied of meaning, emptied of content”, and this bothered Hughes who (rightly we think), pointed out that “the hallmark of a minor artist is to be obsessed with style as an end in itself” (Hughes, Nothing If Not Critical, 326). Art without meaning is glorified wallpaper... mere decoration.
All of this to say, that we are looking for meaning and a shared humanity. We are looking for profound insights into ourselves, the world around us, life, death and everything in between, before and after these events. We are looking for internal and external landscapes articulating the human condition in some shape or form. Okay... one could argue that all the crap we make as humans from fart cushions to ticky torches says something about us. Maybe so... maybe so. But maybe art should strive to elevate us above that level of hubristic production. We sure think so...
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Art is ultimately a visceral experience. Beneath the thin veneer of reason, it stirs primal emotions. This need not translate into “shock value”. Shock for shock’s sake is a lot like style for style’s sake. We deem such art as rudderless. But we are still very much interested in our own emotional response to your work and the overall impact that it has on our psyche. Some art burrows into you very slowly but gathers a lot of emotional steam, other art has a big initial impact that rapidly fizzles into nothing particularly interesting in the long run. The overall emotional impact of your work is tied to things like theme, color, composition... but really how these things contribute to meaning. The emotional impact of your work will be tested as we move through our process of elimination. We will measure up its immediate impact with its long term staying power.
We could probably go on and on about the minute things we look at in a painting. In fact, the more the piece makes us want to look, the more we would have to say about it and that’s just it, isn’t it? The good stuff makes you want to look. In a very visually busy world, it has the power to make you stop and look at it... study it... reflect on it... be moved by it in some way, and share your passion towards it with others.
In the end, that’s what it boils down to.
Painter, Writer, Scholar
Jonathan is a painter, writer and scholar specializing in the religious and philosophical landscape of Late Antiquity. He spends his time translating ancient texts, painting in the studio, taking his kids on field trips to museums, and writing about all kinds of things having to do with Early Christianity, philosophy, art history, and contemporary art. Jonathan is the guy who will be interviewing you if you take 1st place in one of our competitions. You can find out more about him by checking out his web site: www.jeraddatz.com
Claire De Rouet
Claire is an art curator who graduated from the prestigious National School of Fine Arts in Montpellier, France. She has organized several art exhibitions in France and Canada. She is currently involved in business intelligence in the media industry. Aside from having an eye for design, not to mention fresh artistic talent, Claire has a keen, analytical mind. She’s in charge of making sure our web site looks great and runs smoothly.
Art collector, Writer, Editor
Valerie is a professional translator, text editor and proof reader. She’s also an art enthusiast who has been an avid art collector for over 5 years. She has travelled extensively and has feasted her eyes on Turner, Goya, Caravaggio, Picasso, Poussin, Delacroix, Cézanne, Gaugin… her voice trails off at this point. Valerie has an encyclopedic knowledge of French and English grammar and an almost equally impressive knowledge of European art. She edits, researches and fact checks everything you read on this site.