Notes on art criticism

Unedited transcription of hand-written notes on art criticism. Circa early 1970's


Reasons for why explanations for these groups of people give these reasons ground for attacking the viability of the painting convention may be summarized by

These views and the 

An explanation for the holding of the above views

The holding of the above views may be explained as follows

1. Lack of understanding of the language of painting, what painting can be and cannot be and a consequent failure to respond to what it can be and blame it for failure for to be what it can’t be.

2. Bad artistic judgement resulting from passive acceptance of bad artistic art criticism and theory, or just art writers, critics and journalists who sincerely believe that the withering away of the art of painting is an unavoidable evolutionary cultural development.

3. Art writers, critics and journalists who don’t know what they think but don’t like to miss a trend.

4. People who note that the economic and social context of art – especially for example in its traditional forms of objects – coincides exactly with those features of society they most heartily oppose and who therefore regard the art as an accessory after the fact, and reject it accordingly.


When a particular critical idiom [outstays its usefulness is used after the it the art which called it forth has developed or changed therefore – the result is a form of critical mannerism. The wait that can result from this is The present time is such a period.


Such a decline and decay may not seem of much interest to artists


and to the general reader may be little more than a bore or an irritant. In so Such In that serious fallacies about the nature of the art may however be propagated by such mannerist writing it might be thought useful to expose them before they come do too much/such an abundant damage to all those such as students, critics to art who cannot wholly rely for their understanding of art upon their own intuition and creativity – and are inclined to find themselves thrown about like corks on the sea of whose constantly changing waves of an ever changing and polemical sea of fashion and etc


Every period of art produces a Today most art criticism which is about painting is about abstract painting and the most of that criticism is couched in a language and idiom which is to a derived to a greater or lesser extent from the writing of those American critics whose developed their taste, and judgement was and writing styles was formed through who associated with the rise of American abstract painting in the since the 1940s. Every Each separate point of artistic development seems to produce a  its own critics and a critical jargon  its own critical language whose critical concepts and criteria reflect the style, aspiration and means of the art of the period. Just as a period of artistic vitality Just as at particularly [moment of history of a group sharing of creative vitality gives way to

These The cycle of changing forms style and and style in art has its companion attendant though not exactly synchronised cycle of form and style of art analysis and evaluation.


No critical language has a permanent relevance apart from the vaguest and most general terms such as truth or reality and indeed the greater more the degree of precision with which a partly critical idiom gives verbal expression to the visual art of its time is in no means] the more irrelevant will that language be when the sands of artistic time have run out enough to undermine the particular foundation of that particular artistic situation.

Fallacies of contemporary art criticism. Colour, light, form and in abstract painting.

In art criticism the last ten twenty years has seen the swing of the pendulum from the extreme of humanist and literary style immediately after the 2nd world war to the opposite extreme of pure formal analysis. Art criticism like art itself but not necessarily in synchronization with it in subject to a constantly cycle of changing cycle of


Anyone who … 


Just as periods of creativity art history in particular phases are subject to a cycle of

Art criticism on the basis of its [?] of the last two decades is subject to a pattern of growth, vitality and decay similar to that observable in periods of art definable by groups of artists in one place with common aims.


At the present time most art writing which is about painting is about abstract painting and most of that is characterised by the use of a formal jargon of and a philosophical or tone of voice whose which whose aura of high dialectical stance which tone of voice derived from the

Many of the writers are young and were not around and seem to have inherited the jargon and dialectic assumptions without having either the perception of or the experience which would support this.

As the tone of humourless intellectualism and historical hardens and the degree of perception, simultaneously to the art and humility decreases there seems to be an unbridgeable gulf between the way these writers speak about the art and the aims aspiration and methods, thoughts and feeling of those who make art. It is apparent that a number of fallacies about the nature of the art have become enshrined as artistic law and are not only an unquestioned part of the very jargon and of what is assumed to be the artistic main stream of but have been accepted to an extent by artists themselves. Is it fascinating to note how whenever these fallacial assumptions


…passion and a sincere belief that the writers are present at a tiny part creation in art history none the less often give do not [?]

…the impression that it is not the inherent  expressive

 qualities or character of the art which inspires such a tone of voice to so much as the urgent need to construct as fast as possible a [?native ?] an artistic tradition and culture with its accredited pedigree to put American painting both culturally and commercially irrevocably? on the map.

The conjunction of a messianic

Added to this critical

But in addition to being the subject of a messianic critical support – American painting has during the same period been been so subjected to promoted and advertised and marketed with in a way both at home and abroad in on such a scale and with an efficiency never brought to bear not hitherto brought to bear of works of art on the problem of communicating fine art before in history. The consequence for during two decades of a large number of ambitious and talented painters, the will passionate desire for the [fantastic excellent growth of cultural roots and the [?] media for [?] that growth about, and the commercial and promotional apparatus and to create a coherent image of American art are something new and unique and [?] both the image and the subject product add up to has produced a page of art history with which to see both the cultural image and the products has amounted to a gigantic wave crashing on the cultural shore of Europe about which has almost obliterated for the time being not the creative [?] the fragile life of life of and subtle

structure of European art and shutting out rational and considered criticism. This destruction of the fragile situation of European creativity, communication and evaluation under the [?] of has temporarily produced a situation where in public at least art criticism, and evaluation, history making and authentic theorizing have have been largely supplanted by art folk lore, preaching, propaganda, public relation and a general tumult of chauvinist shouting and mud slinging, which seem to have less and less to do with painting and more and more in common with to do with that quintessential element of politics or and power.

The fallacies of American criticism derive from a failure to clarify those characteristics of American painting which in mood and means distinguish American painting from 


The limitations of formal criticism

It is not possible to write in depth about light, space or colour in a purely formal/visual way. These Whereas, shape, composition, structure, scale and surface can all be realised more easily mentally and therefore written about more easily and with the greater chance of communication.  This This is the explanation why an artist like


This has led step by step to the establishment of a [?] exaggerated importance to the latter aspect of painting and a disregard for the expressive and therefore ethical reputation of the former. Combined with the exaggerated importance given to the idea that an artist finds motive in the need to be radical and a grave fallacy has already been built into his art.


The great painters of the past were not primarily motivated by the desire to be radical but by the desire to express reality – which is the honest expression of both their own feelings and the ways things are, with complete honesty.

The concern with By making the concept of radical art the first criterion of judging the quality of art critics have dictated the truth about what motivates artists and 

substituted a dialectical approach (where is X taking art now – what is the [?] next - ) for the subjective ethical intuitive individual and particular ?appraisal] which is the only way in which a man may make an honest response to art. This [?] aberration has been brought about largely by university academics.



are fundamental questions in the art of non American abstract art it is in that very difference that American critics and often American artists find the failures to lie. What are these fallacies and and how have they arisen. and why have they

I shall answer this question by dealing separately with these repeat elements which in varying proportion make up the language of painting – 


First however a brief recap outline of the pattern of American vein of recent art history in [?].