Part 3, project 2, becoming an image

Research point 2: Boo Ritson, Rachel Russell.

Boo Ritson: my first feeling about these images (and what are they? sculptures, paintings, paintings of sculptures?) is a slight revulsion. They look dead but they also look strange and it occurs to me that they fall into that uncanny valley whereby something purportedly a human proxy, is too real to be a proxy but just misses being real. The idea that Ritson uses the sitter – body, hair, clothing – in her work gives me the creeps. Boo Ritson | Artnet

Rachel Russell: is this her in the – what is it, a shark suit? – painting in a studio? Seriously, I don’t know what to make of it other than I see very little of merit.

The course notes ask what kinds of questions these works raise; how they speak about portraiture, the sitter, and the viewer. My question again is why is this good? How are these judgments made and by whom? Where does the decision about merit come from and what is it based on? How would any of these fare if the artist were a complete unknown?

This is not to disparage, although frankly I’m inches away from that, it’s to probe the selection process whereby one piece of work is considered worth lauding and another the uninformed activity of an amateur who knows nothing about art.

I have written elsewhere about how opinions are shaped by social pressures that come ultimately from power and can be driven by some quite raw emotions about not showing ignorance, not being a member of the club, not conforming to the group’s belief systems. Is this maybe a case in point?

I’m very early in my art education and so being wrong about things goes with the territory. But I’m not new to social psychological research and I’m not wrong about that. My earlier written piece (Conboy-Hill 2021) develops the argument for a better way of describing and writing about art, and addressing the social conformity issues that underpin what’s been called group think.

Conboy-Hill, S. 2021. Group think in art – is this a fundamental problem for the critique?. [online] Available at Critical review, option 1 ā€“ communication ā€“ ConboyHill Studio Practice (wordpress.com)

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