I usually don’t take much notice of criticism of my paintings but some recent critiques have given food for thought and provide a more provocative note than my last blog on which to end 2016.
One critic, whom I much respect, told me to my face, in the presence of others, that too many of my paintings were overly dark and needed lightening up. ‘Put some day-light or a sun into them,’ she said, giving me a packet of stick-on celestial images.
So, ever eager to improve as well as please, I took one of my recent gloomy pictures, which was already on the pile of canvases to be over-painted, and stuck a rainbow, a sun and a shooting star on to its sky. Here it is, before and after enhancement:
The presence of these stick-on images on an otherwise innocuous painting provoked immediate, critical comment.
A hard-hitting and characteristically off-target art critic of the upmarket daily which prides itself on speaking for the now despised ‘liberal elite’ opined: ‘In the deliberate juxtaposition of competing surrealisms – dark green sky and miniature floating rainbow – Fowler suggests both our darkest and sunniest imaginings are equally products of our own interiority, implicitly pointing the way to a truer, if less jangling, notion of contemporary reality.’
I think I could go along with that. Being a competitive surrealist has a certain ring about it.
This was followed by a typically pompous pop-gun fusillade from the organ which likes to think of itself as THE Sunday heavyweight. The piece nevertheless contained the insightful observation that ‘Fowler’s ironic deployment of childlike motifs against monumentally blocked heaviness offers us a powerful intersectional construction of a mythic English landscape.’
I like the ‘mythic English landscape’ bit.
Rather unexpectedly, a cry of feminist e-outrage warned me that a full review would appear in the academic journal n.paradoxa, the voice of the international perspective on feminist art, after completion of a full feminist post-structural discourse analysis of my painting. The writer then not only accused me of ‘gender imbalance in the absence of stated critical strategies’ but also decried my ‘post-Kleinian, patriarchal approach with its sad undertones of phallic monism.’ Where is the chaste Diana when she’s needed? – apparently not in my imagery where the fence-posts are penises and the burial mounds are breasts in my pathetic attempt to merge counter-cultural reflectionism with ecofeminism.
My offence is then seemingly magnified by my casual scatter of celestial phenomena. A minuscule rainbow and a disappearing shooting star trivialise the symbolised transience of marginalised, non-visual verities and interpersonal gratification. Further, the diminished size of the solar vehicle fails to disguise the wretched masculinity of my multi-layered, visual metaphor of the ‘phallus as signifier in real-time social engagement.’
Lady, I painted a picture and stuck thingies on it (as a recent Prime Minister might well have expostulated).
Shortest and shrewdest critic of all was our parish magazine with a dismissive one-liner: ‘Looks like a 4-year-old got to it.’
And a happy New Year to you too.