UA1-WA:P1 Part 1 Review

I’m just about to send off the Part One work to my tutor. This is very different to the process for Textiles 1: A Creative Approach. That involved selection, mounting and labeling of work, weighing and refining the selection, a trip to the post office then an anxious wait (I’ve had parcels disappear in the past). Instead I’m submitting work for Understanding Western Art electronically.

It’s time to stop for a moment and consider progress to date.

Project one dealt with Ancient Greece. I posted a final review on 26-May-2013.

The course notes suggest completing just two of the four Projects before attempting the Assignment. I chose to skip Project two (Rome) for now. There is a single post on 31-May-2013.

Earlier this weekend I wrote a brief summing up of Project three – Religious art (see 29-June-2013).

I’ve done some of the reading for Project four – The Renaissance. For now it will have to be just a skim through the rest. I mismanaged time earlier and am overdue on this assignment. It’s time to move on.

The actual assignment for Part One was a short review of the course textbook, Honour and Fleming’s A World History of Art. It’s done, but I found it a difficult and rather unrewarding task. Apart from normal compositional challenges, the difficulty came largely from tone and length. By tone I mean trying to find a balance in how much of “me” to include. The topic was meant to be a personal view – how well does the textbook meet my needs – and our work is not expected to read as if it came straight from an academic journal, but I’m sure it’s not meant to be blog-like chatty either.

The review is meant to be around 500 words. Version 1 came to twice that – after I gave up on the bits of research I wanted to put in about formal textbook design, learning styles, adult education and maybe a comparison to other books I’ve been using. All that plus a structure built around a nice quote that “there is no such thing as a neutral textbook” (Welch (1997), p. 7). Ridiculously ambitious, especially given my reference material was weak (textbook design for learning challenged primary school children, for example). The final version is a little long at 600 words, but I hope “good enough”.

The assessment criteria for this course are the demonstration of: subject based knowledge and understanding; research skills; critical and evaluation skills; and communication. How am I going?

matinsThe Metropolitan Museum of Art - Hours of Francis IUnderstanding of context is a major part of subject knowledge. The illumination from a Book of Hours (22-June-2013) became personal when thinking of the woman who may have first used it, and comparing the work to another made for a King.

My research has been based on the textbook and a selection of books from the course reading list. For internet resources I try to maintain a suspicious mind, and tend to focus on sites from major institutions and government. I have (limited?) remote access to EBSCO’s databases and have made some use of this.

Grace Cossington-Smith

Grace Cossington-Smith
Bonfire in the bush c. 1937

A quick aside on confidence in sources. Recently I’ve been to some lectures at the NSW Art Gallery which focused on the upcoming exhibition Sydney Moderns. The exhibition covers the period around 1915 to the 1940s. In one lecture Steven Miller talked about the 1939 Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art. Apparently a whole mythology has arisen about that exhibition and the impact it had on Australian artists, various authoritative accounts have been published, that simply can’t be supported in fact. I haven’t read one major book that Miller referred to and I haven’t read Miller’s own “debunking” book so don’t want to get into too much detail. The photo here is of a work painted by an Australian before the 1939 exhibition. I’ve put a link at the bottom which gives slightly more information. I think all this is one example of a general rule that it’s next to impossible to be sure of “the truth” (assuming there is such a thing as objective truth, not interpretations). Which isn’t an excuse not to do one’s best – I’m just saying.

For an example of engaging with concepts I’ll point to the series of posts on The Canon (see 28-April-2013). I had trouble getting my head around it, but now I’m sensitized to the ideas I see more and more examples and implications.

Communication – well, probably anyone reading this will form their own opinion. I was pleased with my post about the Turner exhibition in Adelaide (4-May-2013). A few people have talked to me about it, including one non-arty friend who said it made him see some paintings differently – which I think is a pretty good endorsement.

All of this self-trumpet-blowing is not to say that I don’t see lots of room for improvement. It will be interesting to get my tutor’s feedback, but in the interim two areas I want to focus on are information search skills and time management. I’m pretty comfortable with computers, but not academic research. I need to do what I planned to do at the beginning of the year, and check out the training courses at my old/local university library. On time management – well, this Part One totally got away from me. Part two has four projects. I want to complete it in three months, which means around three weeks per project. Elapsed time will be a little longer, since I have a couple of weeks away. Challenging.

More information
A review of Miller’s book, mentioned above: Duggan, L. (2007) Degenerates and Perverts: The 1939 Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art by Eileen Chanin & Steven Miller Reviews in Australian Studies. 2 (4). [online] Available from [Accessed 30 June 2013]

Honour, H. and Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art (revised 7th edition). London: Laurence King.
Welch, E. (1997) Art in Renaissance Italy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

UA1-WA:P1 Part 1 Review
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art.
Part one: Classical and religious art.
Topic: Review

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June 2013

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