Artists are often a serious bunch and we use words and catch phrases that hover around us to reflect our serious nature. Sometimes they are just normal words that take on abnormal traits when coming from the mouth of an artist. Sometimes they really are abnormal words to begin with. These are the words and phrases you often hear in
Context: As in “Nice use of pencil here…” or “That’s a nice painting…” or “This part of the piece is pretty nice, but…”
Verdict: Nice seems more a moral judgment or a vacuous way to express pleasure that isn’t really so pleasurable but you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Last time I checked, art doesn’t have morals and if something is only just nice then is it really so special? This word is best kept at bay. See also; good, swell, OK, lovely, pleasant … Cringing yet?
Artspeak: “Inspire, Inspired, Inspiration, Inspiring”
Context: “I was inspired to use this bold color…” “It’s an inspiring piece…” “I just don’t have any inspiration…”
Verdict: This word has and always will have a place in art. We get our, um, information for our art pieces that we use to move forward with…
Artspeak: “Juxtaposition, Juxtaposed, Juxtapose”
Context: “The juxtaposition of these color relationships creates a real symmetry in the piece.” “When these are juxtaposed it creates a range of possibilities…”
Verdict: Artists are an insecure bunch. No one really cares about what we do in the wider society so we have a hard time feeling good about ourselves. As such, artist use big words when small ones will do just fine. Juxtapose is just such a word. In the dictionary juxtapose means to place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. So why don’t we just say that? Try these two sentences; “If you put orange next to blue it will cause color tension.” A nice sentence but are you going to believe me? How about “Juxtapose orange with blue and it will cause color tension.” Now we’re talking! Are you going to doubt that!? You can’t hide from Juxtapose!
Context: From wikipedia; Ism’s usage is to signify larger organized systems and concepts. Mannerism, Impressionism, Surrealism, Modernism, Post-Modernism, Expressionism, Deconstructionism, Etceraism…
Verdict: Maybe the only groups more insecure than artists are the people who criticize those artists. In order to protect the validity of their criticism they have been labeling different kind of art movements with these Ism’s to make the theories seem better than they are. Basically, using an ism is a way to confuse and to create enough insecurity in someone’s point of view so that they won’t dare call you on the ridiculous notion you just brought up.
See what art ism you are at:
Context: “I wanted to create a duality of…” “My work is about duality.”
Verdict: I have to admit, I thought I knew what this meant and when I looked it up in the dictionary I’m a little more confused. Duality; n. a dual state or quality. Um, I guess it means there are two things happening at once. It’s like having good and evil actually existing at the same time or light and dark dancing in harmony or cats and dogs living together. Or, imagine if you put black and white on the same canvas! I think duality comes up when you don’t know what else to say. “I love it, your art is just so full of….Duality!”
Artspeak: “Investigate, Investigation”
Context: “I investigate complex systems to find visual order.” “My work is about the investigation…”
Verdict: Not so bad, really, investigate is just a word that is used too much in the arts. It makes the search we perform seem harder and thus our works seem bolder by association. If you are searching for something then you’ll just find it eventually. If you investigate something, well then… what you are searching for must be elusive and important! There are no private searchers, private lookers or private checker-outers in the yellow pages that I could find. I’ll need to investigate this some more…
Artspeak: “I hope to…” “My work attempts to…”
Context: “I hope to intercept taken for granted concepts by refiguring fixed subject / object hierarchies as unexpected and dynamic encounters.” “My work attempts to accent and examine fields of emergence.”
Verdict: I feel bad because I took the above examples directly off of an artist statement on an artist’s website. The work on this website was actually very engaging but can you make any sense of those sentences? I fall under the spell of using “I hope…” and “My work attempts…” all the time. It’s like we’re afraid to actually say what we actually did! If we are always hopeful and attempting then can we ever really fail? In opposition, I am reminded of the sports adage “you are what you are.” I hope I am not what I am as I attempt to be something that I’m not…
Artspeak: “ – “
Context: “re-imagine” “in-spiration” “di-chotomy” “land-scape” “beer-bottle”
Verdict: 1) Take a perfectly good word or two perfectly good words. 2) Add a hyphen to it at some opportune break or between the two words to make a pseudo new word that is so much more meaningful than the old and maybe not so good word(s.) 3) Won-der how you ever managed to co-mmunicate with plain old En-glish be-fore.
Artspeak: “Conceptualize, Conceptualized”
Context: “I conceptualized this piece using…” “When I’m working, I conceptualize…”
Verdict: Noticing a pattern here? If your gonna go, go big! I really don’t get the reason to use conceptualize(d.) This is one of those words that when you hear it you think “yea, I know what that means…” but as you think harder and harder you cant quite come up with a definition that makes sense. I’ve even gone so far as to conceptualize what conceptualized means and it still doesn’t make sense!
Artspeak: “En Plein air”
Context: “This piece was painted en plein air.”
Verdict: Because I made this painting en plein air and not just THAT I PAINTED IT OUTSIDE it’s a much better painting. That’s all those fancy French terms mean – done outside. En Plein air is not a style, nor an art movement, nor a particular medium but just a fancy way of saying “done outdoors.” Imagine two identical paintings side by side and one was labeled “En Plein air” and one was labeled “Done Outside” and which one would you buy?
Any other Artspeak terms to add?