Writing about art from an outside perspective admittedly can feel limiting sometimes. More often than not, my inner monologue when profiling work is “Well, I’m just some guy taking what feels like a passing glance at something and writing about what someone has spent their entire life honing.” How can I possibly portray that intimate feeling that comes from working relentlessly towards an artistic destination, and then putting it out into the world?
So getting the chance to hear artists give their impressions of art that isn’t their own can be a humbling experience for a culture writer. Who better to share their views of the creative process than someone else who has potentially struggled through expressing their own ideas creatively?
This is what I found intriguing about the new SFU radio program, Listening to Pictures: Artists on the SFU Art Collection. Put on by SFU Galleries, and broadcast on their site, this series of profiles presents local artists chatting about art, in a free-form structure. What’s created is an intimate account of expression and process. Hearing artists talk about a fellow artist’s work, there’s a close-quarters element that an art critic can never achieve.
What’s more is that each artist is open to expressing themselves in whatever way they choose, from meditative homages to barbed political reflections to playful sonic experiments.
The 10-episode program invites local artists to choose a piece from The SFU Art Gallery’s collection and reflect on it. Just one from the, 5,800 modern and contemporary paintings, photographs, sculptures, works on paper, and large public installations.
Listeners of the program can even have each piece of art mailed to them on 5′ by 7′ index cards complete with artist profiles so they can follow along while listening.
Listening to Pictures was organized by Kimberly Phillips and Karina Irvine, the project was born from marvelling at the sheer amount of local art the gallery has at its disposal. “We’ve been thinking of ways we might bring more public cognizance to the collection and the unique and complex stories it can help us tell about life on the West Coast”, says Phillips.
Not only does the program look at expression through the lens of a Lower Mainland artist, but it also shines the perspective of another local voice through it.
“I love it when artists tell stories about other artists – I love the way this offers momentary access into a world through the lens of another world and artistic practice.”
While I still may grapple with my own inadequacies with writing about art (that’s another article), programs and shows like Listening to Pictures are a reassuring message that expressing oneself in any way, even if it’s in opinion, can be an artistic act.
Listening to Pictures will be broadcast from June 16 – August 18
You can listen on @cjsfradio or on the SFU website at sfugalleries.sfu.ca