Friday, 2 May 2014

Curious Arts: Affinities Art Talk

Provided By the Curious Arts blog

Written by Julie-Ann Mercer
(Originally published on April 25, 2014)

Feature image – Suzi Barlow working on her untitled performance, multi-media installation

I’ve never been good at choosing titles for projects. That’s why the 2014 Bachelor of Fine Arts graduating class’s exhibition, titled Affinities, impressed me. By using the word affinities with art, the class places an emphasis on the connection between their artwork with viewers. Their title suggests an action, a behavior we partake in when we look at art. For me, their title is refreshing since it’s not trying to legitimize their art or project its importance. The word affinities is inviting: it welcomes an opportunity to connect with their work on an individual level. I hope the relationship between viewer and art continues to be emphasized like it is in Affinities, because I would much rather foster my own relationship with art than listen to more ‘art talk.’

By ‘art talk,’ I mean the obscure language people often use to talk about art. It’s a lexicon I try to stay away from. If I ever wrote a book about art, it would probably be called “A Book about Art.” The writing inside the book would most likely be as to the point as the title. Instead of nurturing an elegant writing style like most art history students, my writing tends to reflect the Western literary genre. As Western critic Jane Tompkins puts it, “doing, not talking, is what it values.” For me, the ‘doing’ is the desire to understand why an artwork is created and what the artist is thinking. I want to get a close look at the work, slowly taking in its idiosyncrasies that are purposefully or accidentally left by the artist.

Instead of legitimizing art with esoteric language, I think there is more value to the sensations we feel and the connections we establish with artworks. We feel and connect to art through the stories it tells us – that individual perception is diluted with exterior sources telling us to think it’s ‘bad’ or ‘good.’ Our relationship with art is based in our affinity with it – a “spontaneous or natural liking.” Our affinity to art helps us distinguish what matters and what doesn’t, allowing us to connect with what we see on a personal level.

Untitled – Suzi Barlow – Performance, multi-media installation
Referent – Morgan Melenka – Painting on plexiglass

Untitled – Tiffany Adair

Under The Window – Sugar Hung
Mind Frame – Tiffany Adair
Over The Hills, Far Away – Vanessa Mastronardi – wood and string

Prairie Scene (Oh Shucks) – Megan Gnanasihamany

Untitled – Alyson Davies

An Original Novel – Jonathan Sherrer

An Original Novel – Jonathan Sherrer


About the Author

Julie-Ann Mercer is a BA Art History 2014 graduate and will return this fall as an MA candidate in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Alberta. She feels most at home by the sea, she has an affection for macarons, and her favorite time of day is magic hour.

Curios Arts

Written from the heart of the Fine Arts Communications Hub at the University of Alberta, this is a blog driven by curiosity about the Departments of Drama, Music and Art & Design.

What drives UAlberta artists to action? Why do they create? What is their inspiration? Where does the artistic process take us?

It’s all about curiosity.  And who isn’t curious?

Join us on our adventures in the studios and shops, classrooms, rehearsal halls and stages as we explore the stories about what’s happening in the Fine Arts at the University of Alberta, share colourful insights on creativity, and glean practical tips from our Fine Arts experts plus much more.


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