To write art / exhibition reviews

Art is the provocation for talking about enigma and the search for sense in human life. One can do that by telling a story or writing about a fresco by Giotto or studying how a snail climbs up a wall. –  John Berger

It is not within my course to be instructed in arts writing.  I am attempting to teach myself more about the structure than the content, through the book A Short Guide to Writing About Art by Sylvan Barnet. I love this book. Reading and re-reading John Berger is also part of my self directed study in this area. He was a shining star for me.  Here I have outlined three key elements to the arts review:

i) DESCRIPTION construct an opening paragraph that informs the reader of the subject – the name of the artist(s), the time period and subject matter covered. Establish the time of the review. By the end of the opening, the reader should sense the reviewers main point.

ii) ANALYSIS a few paragraphs which go into further detail about the theme, purpose or idea, or scope embodied in the exhibition, perhaps within the context of related exhibitions. A paragraph or two about the setting and installation / lighting / wall text etc. A few paragraphs on the strengths of the work/ exhibition. A few paragraphs on the weaknesses. 

iii) EVALUATION concluding paragraph summarising your main point. include a quote from the artist or curator. 

Using this as a rough template, I begin to look at exhibition reviews of shows I have been to, such as The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind at Hauser & Wirth Somerset – review written by Gabriel Coxhead from the March 2018 issue of ArtReview; Everything at Once, presented by the Lisson Gallery + Vinyl Factory in the Store Studios space at 180 The Strand review written by Edward Lucie-Smith for Artlyst 19 October 2017; and Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 exhibition with a review of the opening exhibition in London by Kaitlyn Kane.

I want to begin this new writing practice by responding to these three reviews, with my own observations of the exhibitions and to see if I can break down how these reviews have been constructed.

To be continued…

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