Interpreting Art – Artist or Critic?

Ana Finel Honigman has asked an interesting question over at the Guardian blog. She asks, Is an artist’s idea of what their work means more important than the viewer’s interpretation, or are they both valid?

I like the idea of a work of art doing its own talking. If it needs an explanation by the artist, he/she has probably made the work too complicated. An artist and an art critic should be two very different people. One creates art and the other talks about art.

I would still rather listen to an artist talk about art, rather than a critic talking about art though.

Here’s what Ana Finel Honigman says..
“..many academics or critics exploit art’s “messages” for self-interested methodological or political ends. But many excellent artists leave themselves defenseless against such hijacking because they cannot articulate persuasively why they do what they do. And further complicating these relationships is that many artists who can explain their work are more articulate verbally than visually, which is why much of bad art is not really art but is rather merely illustrations of ideas..” Guardian Blog

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Interesting article, but I don’t see that the critics interpretation is necessarily wrong just because the artists intent/interpretation wasn’t the same. I think if an artist wants a work to be interpreted in a specific way they supply an explanation or a title directing the viewer. Why does that have to imply that a painting can’t stand on its own or is too complicated. Even with an explanation viewers bring their own experience and interpretation to an image.

    I don’t know I feel all fuddle brained today, not explaining myself very well ;)

  2. As someone who has dabbled in and is interested in conceptual art very much….I take offense to the idea that an illustration of an idea is not art. It may not be as preferable to certain people or as aesthetically pleasing, but why is it considered bad?
    I personally feel that there is plenty of art that is very aesthetically pleasing and yet does not have a leg to stand on because when all is said and done, the artist has nothing to say about it. I am also able to admit that this is my opinion, this is what appeals to me, but I wont call it “bad” art because I appreciate something that someone else may not.
    Perhaps I should be posting this on the Guardian Blog since this is more of a response to the quote :)

  3. The final truth of the matter is that most of the greatest pieces of art we admire and love do not have their creator around to explain them. You can listen to a thousand different interpretations from experts of what Caravaggio wanted to send out through his St. Mathew paintings and they will all fit somehow. Truth is, we will never hear the real reasons from Michelangelo himself. Somehow through the centuries his art has stood the test of time without words, it needs no explanation to get through and anyone who does not call his work Art is just trying to be stupidly controversial. If what you do can be confused by most people in the world outside the main art circle with trash, then you have a real problem because in the long run, when we are all gone, sooner or later it will become trash. The true reason why only a very few artists are remembered is because they combine true skill with ideas and not ideas that make up for skill or skill empty of ideas.
    As an artist, you are what you do.

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