Mid-Year Critiques

By Zoë Sua Kay (MFA 2014)
It might be said that one of the frustrating things about mid year critiques is that as soon as they’re over, the school closes because Christmas around the corner. But what about all that advice you’ve just been given?

Suddenly, despite having been absolutely exhausted from the final push in the studio leading up to it, you’re re-energized – you’ve got to go and fix that thing you’ve just been told is the collapsing point of that painting. But alas, you’re being shuffled out, slightly relieved, slightly ecstatic, slightly like you’ve just survived you first foray through the tumble dryer. 

Regardless of whether your own critique went well, or whether it was a disaster, it’s probably a good thing that no one really remembers in the immediate aftermath what had been said.   A few salient comments stick in your mind but really, when you’re under the spot light in front of one hundred-or-so of your peers, adrenalin kicks in and part of you snaps in to survivor mode.  On critique day, all the work you’ve done thus far – the desperate search for meaningful content and that entirely original stroke of genius that makes your artistic "voice" more Pavarotti than the guy at the 14th street subway who for years never quite managed to figure out the lyrics to The Beatles song he keeps singing – all that exertion is finally, and in one fell swoop of the 15 minutes you’re assigned, either deemed worthwhile or, heaven forbid, a fundamental "mismanagement" of time.
Although I had only witnessed a couple of the mid-year critiques the previous year, I had heard the horror stories.   In the days leading up to critiques for my fellow class of 2014, compatriots were divided between fear of imminent apocalyptic disaster and a Joan of Arc-esque sense of martyred stoicism.  You try to tell yourself it doesn’t matter that much, that you’ve done what can.   By the time you you’re hanging your work, you are falling apart at the seams because you’re suddenly overcome with grief at the lackluster body of work you’ve produced.  However, when my name was finally called and the formal introduction made, something unexpected happened.  I found myself switching into the role of a host.   As I gave my little blurb about what my work was about, it felt as though I was welcoming them into the party that I guess is my art making.  And then it was all a blur.

I remember Wade Schuman likening one painting to a billboard (thanks, Wade) but it was all mixed between more positive comments and other criticisms.  So much is said in so little time and between so many "jurors" that it’s difficult to keep track of it all. In hindsight, it’s difficult to get into a meaty debate over certain points you’d have liked to expand on. The comments that are made by our professors are incredibly astute yet abridged versions of a full criticism you want explore. It’s actually rather an unbelievable exposé of their intellect and ability to get to the meat of the matter within a few minutes. This, however is the only drawback. If such insightful issues can be raised in such a short time, imagine what could be discussed if we had each had an hour of their time..or an entire day?? I think I can safely say that all my classmates were left hungry for more. Alas, we must take pity on our faculty members, and applaud what, for them, must have been a long and grueling two days.

All in all, the experience for us students was a good one.  And I didn’t even feel the urge to cry.  At the end, when people gave their congrats and shook my hand, and exhaled with a somewhat shaky sense of relief, thinking, ‘it’s all over…for now’. All in all the experience for us students was a good one. And I didn’t even feel the urge to cry. Especially at the end when people gave their congratulations and shook your hand, and you exhaled with a somewhat shaky sense of relief, thinking, "it’s all over…for now". 
My only grievance, as a young female artist, is the lack of female presence on the panel. Catherine Howe did a fantastic job of holding the flag for us and there were a few more women artists in the mix the following day, but in all honesty, my heart did sink a bit when in the morning I noticed the male to female ratio. 
Now though, after the dust has settled and I’ve had time to obsess over the transcripts of my critique, I feel armed and ready for the turbulence of the final semester. The time has come to jump back into attack mode and prove to Wade that my paintings are not fated to be billboards, thank you very much.  Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a good billboard.


On behalf of the students I’d like to thank the faculty for their time and effort, it really is an honor to be offered so much of it. Thanks to Holly for providing us all with transcripts and ultimately minimizing post-blur amnesia. I’d also like to thank the first years that made it in to show their support. And well-bloody-done fellow second years! 


To learn more about Zoë and her work visit: www.zsuakay.com

Interested to experience critiques for yourself?  Find past critiques on Academy’s Vimeo channel.

1 comment:

  1. thank you very much its good one view my sitehttp://www.indoswift.com