Thursday, November 21, 2013

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing



Apologies that this blog is mainly text with few pictures to break up the verbal torrent. I have to admit I'm a very critical person or as I prefer to think of it, analytical. I hope that I am encouraging to others and give praise where it is due but I have never ‘suffered fools gladly’ or remained quiet when a complaint was justified - beware restaurants that serve me poor food! Thoughts about criticism have been running around my mind in recent weeks, since I read about an exchange of words, following another blogger's criticism of a garden open to the public. This all occurred back in the spring when David’s Garden Diary blogged about a visit to Mary Keen’s Garden. He wasn't complimentary and his negative comments drew the ire of this celebrated horticulturalist, who responded through her column in the Telegraph. Now whilst I can't comment on the garden itself, I do know that I have visited many gardens open to the public that have been disappointing and a waste of money, regardless of whether it was a charitable opening. Skim back through my blogs here and you'll find some of my critiques, like my comment on a Mediocre Garden. So are we justified to make criticism of others' gardens? Of course - the whole thing of garden appreciation is subjective and for example, I might like my colourful and exotic little garden but you might find the whole experience rather brash and overpowering. That is purely a personal opinion based on personal taste. But some comments may well be less subjective and a garden that is lacking in interest, is badly maintained, untidy and weedy, deserves criticism!

Garden visiting - should be an enjoyable experience for owner and visitor!

I realise that over the years I have been called upon to be critical in a number of ways as part of my career. Many years ago I taught horticulture and as part of my duties I acted as an examiner, both marking written work and assessing the practical work of students. It was judgemental and depending on the students work, they passed or failed. I hope I was always fair! In recent years I have been privileged to act as a judge for the Royal Horticultural Society at Chelsea and the other major UK flower shows. There was a time when as judges, we walked around, had a good look at the exhibits and then proposed an award with a simple show of hands. This was not a very accurate procedure and tended to be far too subjective. Now all judging is based on a series of criteria to which are allocated marks. The result is that judging is far more objective and analytical, although there is still an element of assessing the artistic quality of the stand and the impressions of those in each judging panel can vary. As RHS judges we have earned the authority to be critical because of our knowledge and experience but equally all gardeners who have an appreciation of gardens and plants have a right to express their opinion on other gardens.

the judges' opinion and awrds do not always align with comments from the garden media!

With any aspect of the arts, there will inevitably be criticism and differing opinions. Some of us may like jazz but to others it is a meaningless cacophony. The vast world of music will speak to different people in many ways. The composer Rossini is quoted as once saying "Mr Wagner has beautiful moments but bad quarters of an hour". We will conclude that he was not a fan of German grand operas! The famous artist John Singer Sargent once painted a portrait of a young French lady who was noted for her beauty and rumoured infidelities. He created a beautiful portrait of the lady posing in a black satin dress with bare shoulders and thin jewelled shoulder straps, hinting at her sensuality.  Apparently after originally painting the picture, Sargent was persuaded to repaint one of the shoulder straps which in the original was off the shoulder. The picture became known as the portrait of Madame X and now hangs in the New York Metropolitan Museum of art, where we were thrilled to see it some weeks ago. By modern standards the picture is harmless but in the Paris society of 1884, it engendered much criticism and scandal, almost resulting in the failure of Sargent’s career.

The renowned Madame X by John Singer Sargent

All of which brings me up to date, thinking once again about criticism and my own artwork. Regular readers will know that about two years ago I took up watercolour painting and if you check the Ian’s Watercolours tab on this website you will see my work. Since returning to Palm Springs, I have joined the local Desert Arts Centre. As part of my involvement here, I have chosen to have my art work juried with the possibility that I can become  a ‘ hanging member’ which means that my work can be displayed in the gallery and hopefully sell some paintings. So I find myself in this situation where somebody else will be criticising my work, judging my ability and concluding quite simply ‘I like it’ or ‘I don't like it’!

Poppies and penstemons by a me!
Finally - just today I went out and purchased a large houseplant for our kitchen and proudly positioned it before Philip arrived home from work. His immediate response was 'I don't like that' - so much for my carefully chosen purchase but at the end of the day its all a matter of opinion. After ten minutes grovelling in the bin for the receipt, the plant is awaiting its return to the garden centre! Actually - maybe he is right - it is rather big!

1 comment:

  1. I have to say I have loved reading criticism since I was in my teens--film, theater,books you name it. My own garden is far from perfect , in a constant state of evolution and if it were large, famous and frequently visited I would have no problem with negative feedback..we need to be able to take it if we dish it out !

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