{TITLE} {what title} {NOTITLE} – Part 5, project 3

Red Woman. Work made during the Practice of Painting module.

Project 3 is about generating titles for pieces of work and, oh my goodness, am I familiar with this one! I’ve had to generate them for conference papers, internal reports, workshops, and latterly short stories, a couple of books, and a litter of pre OCA and now concurrent within and outside of OCA paintings and prints.

It’s not easy.

There is at least, with many of them anyway, an assumed target audience and a set of expectations depending on who this is. There is also the subtext of linguistic bamboozlement designed to impress/intrigue/enhance the product. Titles are important; they’re for attracting and holding attention in the first instance, maybe encouraging a purchase, and probably conveying an impression of the writer or artist.

My experience with all of these, and I’ve done it myself, is that some seem to go for the deliberately obtuse, others make you guess by preserving their nominal privacy [I saw an MA exhibit in shades of brown and orange mud on a piece of board which was labelled ‘untitled’ which suggested to me that the maker had no idea what it was either], while a few present detailed information in the form of a short essay. Sean Scully evidently turns up at his galleries and delivers chapter and verse to anyone who’s there.

I’ve done the bafflement, the academically turgid, the literary bet-you-can’t-guess-what-it-means (including the ending which isn’t really an ending at all), and the comedic tease for a live audience.

Recently thought, I’ve had to think of titles for paintings to take to an art trail and, looking hard at one piece, a woman of indeterminate ethnicity wearing red in a reddish background, I eventually ditched the somewhat fatuous ‘dignity’, ‘resolve’, ‘defiance’ thesaurus and went with ‘Red Woman’ because that’s how I’ve described her in my own head and how anyone looking for this painting would recognise it.

I was reminded at this point of the way ‘Friends‘ episodes were titled. None of the blarney, just a straightforward intro to the action; ‘Episode 5; the one with the East German Laundry Detergent‘. Clarity, you knew what you were getting. And doesn’t that resonate with song titles too? All those bangers you’ve always called by whatever the chorus is but you’ve no idea of the title? Sometimes we maybe over-think the label, going for the clever-clever and forgetting who it’s for.

Despite my earlier crimes against clarity, I’m a fan of plain English, effective communication, accessibility and inclusivity; all ways of maximising engagement with people who may have felt excluded or disenfranchised because they didn’t ‘get it’. So I think, reflecting on this post, I will do my best to deliver simplicity in my titles. You know where you are with a sunflower that says ‘Sunflower’.

Friends. Long running gently comedic US sitcom featuring a flat-share of several 20-30 somethings that ended in around 2004 but is constantly being re-run on many channels. My quote is the episode first aired in 1994. (Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Friends_episodes).

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