Sunday, 15 July 2012


The offending drawing. . . .

Rant 1

Just have to share the reaction of one visitor to Ryedale Open, when he arrived in front of my drawing  all delivered in a broad North Yorkshire accent:

"What the 'ell is that?  What is it?  I like to know what I'm looking at.  Bloomin' load of rubbish, that belongs in t' skip" 

Brilliant!  I offered to explain what it was about but he didn't care.  It is really difficult to laugh hard without making too much noise and falling off a chair.  At least the drawing is eliciting a reaction from people, and I think that is good.

Another male northerner also loudly stated his belief that modern art is crap.  Maybe he should apply to become a trustee of a certain museum I know. . . . .

Rant 2: (this time mine). 

 I am reading Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance, by Joan Gibbons pub: I.B. Taurus.   Fairly interesting but I am constantly distracted by the sometimes awful sentence construction, poor use of language and mistakes in the text. (One such mistake is the spelling of the name of the artist being discussed).  We were told at our university in no uncertain terms when preparing to write our dissertations, that this is a cardinal sin so how come this manuscript was not proof read?  It has become such a distraction that I have taken to scoring underneath every mistake or poor use of language that I come across in chapter 4!  It helps me to stay on track of the meaning of the words I am reading somehow.  My argument and reason for this rant is: poor use of language and poor sentence construction obscures meaning and weakens the argument

The worst thing I have noticed is the use of the word FOREGROUND to mean emphasise or highlight. I am going to count up how many times this particular word is used by the author in the text, (it is also used in a quotation from the work of another writer too).   I never benefited from formal grammar teaching, but I read voraciously as a child and I know that you should not use the word FOREGROUND, which I now understand is an adjective, or "describing" word in place of a verb such as emphasise, which is a "doing" word!  

It is really lazy.  I have noticed that it is becoming fashionable within certain areas of art writing  and can only assume that it is part of an author's attempt to appear up to the minute with the latest artspeak obfuscation.  I suggest that authors of intelligence and integrity do not need to do this and I am surprised that Joan Gibbons, who is, according to the back of the book jacket, Senior Lecturer at Birmingham City University and Course Director, MA Contemporary Curatorial Practice, writes in such a lazy way.

Where Joan Gibbons is describing and expressing her own thoughts about the work she is discussing her writing is better, less obscured.  It is when she is attempting to bring philosophical thinking into the argument that the writing becomes less readable.  I sympathise somewhat; philosophical argument is not that easy to hold clearly in one's mind and using it to strengthen discussion can be tricky.  I speak from experience because I was misguided enough once, in an essay I wrote, to use a philosophical reference that I did not understand and was caught out and roundly reprimanded for it!  I somehow felt that the reference was right, but to this day I do not understand it.  Maybe one day I will. . . . . but it was a lesson well learnt!

In my next blog, I'll run a list of some examples from this manuscript of poor language use to show how it  obscures the meaning and distracts the reader. 

Rant over.  For now!


  1. 1 - at least they didn't just say nice and walk on.. These drawings are strong will it be perched in future shows?

    2 - I'm ok with foregrounding - it seems appropriate when discussing art. Maybe we could have backgrounding too. I'm for a more fluid english innit.

  2. Fluid English, capital E? Surely comprehension is the most important thing when trying to discuss a serious subject? I am all for the development of the English language but not for lazy writing. Get thee to the background!