Reflections on Writing About Art
The essays I've enjoyed the most this year
This is my last post for 2022, and I want to spend a few moments just basking in the sunshine of what I’ve achieved this year. After trying out various writing platforms I moved my HQ to Substack back in July, and it was the best thing I ever did. It’s a brilliant platform for writers to build a community of engaged readers and to find new audiences.
When I first started The Gallery Companion in 2021 on instagram I wasn’t quite sure what my direction was other than that I wanted to talk and write about art in a way that makes sense, without any of the confusing art speak that you often find in writing about art.
Since I’ve been writing on Substack I feel like I’ve finally hit my groove. This publication is all about the role of art in our world, the ideas, the thoughts and the emotions that art explores. And it’s about politics, culture and history. All of the fascinating, chewy stuff.
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In case you missed them or you’ve only recently subscribed, here is a selection of my essays from the six months I’ve been writing on Substack. Looking back it’s hard to choose my favourites because I’ve really enjoyed researching and writing everything that I’ve created in 2022. And I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.
If you’re celebrating this week, happy holidays. And I’ll be back in the first week of January.
The incredible story of the American photographer Vivian Maier who documented life in New York and Chicago in the middle of the 20th century. Her work is comparable in quality to some of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, but here’s the thing: Maier never showed her photographs to anyone. And most of the photos she took she didn’t even get developed. Read more.
August: Why Teach Art in Schools?
It makes people more highly skilled in thinking and improving. So let’s put more focus on it in our education system. This was the argument of the post-war American artist and educator Ruth Asawa (1926-2013). It was simple: the skills that you practice as an artist are essential to cultivating creative thinking within all fields of knowledge. The process of doing rather than just thinking about abstract ideas. Gaining experience rather than passively absorbing information. This makes people function better, no matter what career path they take. Read more.
This watercolour sketch from 1799 depicts a bucolic scene in the English countryside. But this painting isn’t just a pretty little picture. Even though there are no people in it, it’s layered with human lives and politics. It’s an example of how the legacy of slavery reaches into many different aspects of our contemporary life and culture. And it’s the reason why I can’t look at a J.M.W. Turner painting the same way again. Read more.
Cezanne’s art is in a broad sense about endlessly shifting perceptions and the construction of images, and that makes his work very relevant to us now given the power that the image-saturated media has in our culture. In my opinion the best exhibitions of art from the past very gently nudge viewers towards connections we can make to our own experiences. And for me there wasn’t enough of that in the blockbuster Tate Modern show this Autumn. Read more.
November: In Praise of Banksy
The British street artist Banksy recently visited Ukraine where he created several pieces in the ruins of bombed out buildings in urban locations around the country. Banksy’s touching images remind us once again of the resilience of Ukrainians as the first line of defence in Europe against despotism. And the necessity of standing in solidarity with them. This kind of art is essential, and in my view Banksy does important work. Read more.
Back in early October an anonymous Iranian artist poured red dye into the fountains in Fatemi Square in Tehran to make the pool of water look like blood. Before the authorities had a chance to drain it away images of the red fountains were quickly shared on social media. It was one of the many small but eye-catching acts of protest that Iranian artists have been making over the past couple of months in response to the murder of Zhina Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman. Read more.