Sunday, September 7, 2008

Show, don’t tell!

This is the advice given to beginning writers and is definitely applicable to art quilts! A piece should be About Something and that Something should be clearly evident to the viewer – even if they have to work at it a little!! Not too much, otherwise they’ll pass on to the next “masterpiece”! You shouldn’t need to look at the title to see what the piece is about, or worse yet – read the "explanation".

I've never understood why the editors of art quilt show catalogues ask for those descriptions. It is as if they assume that you weren’t able to convey your subject, whether literal or abstract, in the piece. The names of famous paintings from the past don’t have long names and explanations – they frequently just dryly announce the setting e.g. “Dedham Valley”, or the “Big Splash” – and leave it up to the painting to tell you what it is about the valley or the pool that so intrigued the painter that he had to make a painting about it.

I do think it’s very important to know what you’re making a piece about before you start making it. I can’t see a piece working well if you shuffle around some pretty bits of cloth till they look ok and then stitch (or worse yet, the “f” word!!) them together and then stand back and think "now, what is this about?"!!

So in future, if your piece is about the heat of a summer day – show it!! Use hot colours and glaring edges that bleed together, the sharp edges of the harsh bright light, the deep shadows...

If it’s about early spring in a valley – show all the soft greens, the rounded edges, the slightly hazy light that indicate that time of year.

But don’t write a laboured explanation!!! And don’t just throw elements into the piece at random and hope it will all balance when you get it together and you'll be able to explain it all in the description with some high sounding waffle!

Let us eschew the “descriptions” in catalogues and instead argue for a detail in that space, or – even more interesting – a small picture of another piece from the same series!

Let us Show, not tell!

And , if you have been, thanks for reading!!!


1 comment:

Grace said...

That's exactly how it should be...know from whence it comes and why, then create. For a while there I did the opposite of this, making experimental pieces then standing back and seeing where it fits and what it says. When I look back these pieces express nothing (or nothing much) about me except I can put fabrics together cleverly.

Make it say something from the get go!