Art Criticism: Boon or Bane? (Part III)

Manila Bulletin, January 16, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Art Criticism: Boon or Bane? (Part III)


MANILA, Philippines - Third, descriptive. The artwork is described visually (painting), as well as visually and tactually (sculpture). Santiago Albano Pilar described Fausto Quiotan's 'San Jose With the Child Jesus,' thus: "St. Joseph's right hand is dangled and linked to Jesus' left as if the father is supporting the child as they walk. Their facial features, painted in miniaturistic detail, are animated and sharply outlined like the features of a doll-"

Alfredo Roces described Ed Castrillo's 'Inang Bayan' monument with these words: "A female form representing the Motherland (Inang Bayan) reaches upward, one arm raised, the other arm supporting a fallen figure. The composition is held together by her skirt which also doubles as a shroud-"

Roces was silent on which arm of Inang Bayan is raised, and why. Neither was the skirt explained why it "doubles as a shroud."

As for the Pilar piece, nothing is said why Jesus is on St. Joseph's right side. Neither was it mentioned that this painting could be the only one in Christian art where the subject is Father and Son, not Mother and Child which is rampant in western art.

Clearly, the descriptive paradigm can be done by anybody. Except the blind.

Fourth, psychoanalytical. The psyche, which in psychoanalysis means an "aggregate of all the psychic components constituting a human individual, sometimes considered as an entity functioning apart from or independently of the body" becomes a stimulus for evaluating an artwork. This calls on the part of the art critic (or any percipient-sentient) for an a priori knowledge of the context in which an artwork was done, from which the artist's psyche might emerge. This is a tall order. And so the art critic must do an extensive and intensive research for an inclusive reading of the artwork.

Leonardo's 'The Last Supper' easily comes to mind. The compleat Renaissance artist used his take-off point that very moment when the Lord said: "One of you will betray me" (Jn. 13:21). The 12 apostles-all men, by historical, biblical and genealogical fact-were caught unawares. Each one "looked at one another, puzzled as to whom he could mean." (Jn. 13:22).

The artist chose this fleeting moment to "freeze" the bodily expressions of the apostles. They are agitated, but the Lord is calm, serene and composed. Truly, the Lord was able to read their hearts.

Jesus Christ's calmness, serenity and composure in the face of the betrayal that impends, contribute to this fact: he is the focal point. Furthermore, the apostles' gestures point toward him. He sits at the center of the composition, surrounded by the 12 in groups of threes at the Lord's sides. This is a clear, powerful and indubitable graphic depiction of the Lord's word: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

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Art Criticism: Boon or Bane? (Part III)
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