A Lesson In Criticism….

‘You do not like this poem of mine,
And you say so, loud and clear;
You want to prove your brilliance
With a harsh, dismissive sneer.
But all your knocking tells me is
That you have nothing to say
Which I could usefully listen to:
So please, just go away.’

No artist expects their work to be liked by every-one. But they do hope that there will be those who do appreciate them. They create their work because they want to say something about themselves which can’t be said in any other way.
For some, that is enough. They’ve said what they want to say and have no desire to take matters further. What the audience for that work makes of that is simple: either they like it or they don’t. However, they have to respect that the artist has not asked for anything other than to be understood. The audience can say what it is they understand from the work, or they can keep their thoughts to themselves, which really shouldn’t be that hard. These artists do not create their work just so that they can be targets for the self-righteous, self-important, and pompous who think they know better than the artists what the artists should have done. These artists are trying to share something of themselves with the world, no more, no less.
For others, they are very conscious of their craft, and want to work on it so that they can develop their techniques to the point where they feel they can do what they do not feel they are yet doing, which is to say exactly what they want to say in the way they want to say it. These artists invite comment and criticism.
Again, how potential critics react to them is simple: they can respect the artist’s request and tell them what they think there is in the work which is is worth preserving and what is worth changing; they might even make suggestions in a spirit of helpfulness. However, if they cannot like the work and have nothing positive to say about it, that really does not mean they should say as much. These artists who seek the kind of guidance which will give them the confidence to continue their efforts are looking for and deserve some degree of positivity in the responses their work elicits. They should not be made into a target by the self-righteous, self-important, and all too often malicious people who think that every-one who fails to meet their personal criteria for what is go must be failures who deserve to be treated with a scolding.
The lesson is, if you disrespect the art, you are disrespecting the artist. And by ‘disrespect’ I don’t mean ‘dislike’. There are many works of art I dislike intensely, but I can respect them as works of art, because I can at least appreciate some quality they have, and I can certainly respect the artist’s intentions. I can learn from them just as much, if not sometimes more, than all those works that please me.
People who attack any given work of art just because they’ve taken against it do not realise they are attacking the human being who created it; because that art represents that human being to the world. The two can’t be seperated.
The problem here is, I know that there are some who will read this who, knowing I am talking about them, will come back it me with a very simple-minded answer. They will say in their righteous fashion that I am attacking them because they are simply exercising their freedom to have an opinion and to express it, and those who can’t accept what they are saying should simply put up with it.
This misses the point. First, having a freedom does not mean that there is any duty to exercise it, especially if its use causes unnecessary hurt. And secondly, we all have those freedoms, which many millions of people round the world use to create art. Accusing them of creating work that should not have been created because it doesn’t suit a particular taste is itself an attack, and a supremely hypocritical one, on their freedom to have an opinion and to express it.
And as you surely now realise, I have used my own freedom to have an opinion and express it to make the little verse with which I started this piece, which I hope makes my point more simply than I have made it in what has come after it.
But then again, I have said what I want to say in the way I wanted to say it. Nobody has to read it if they don’t want to.

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