– Autumn/Winter 2007

Critics vs. Gillian Carnegie

Barry Schwabsky

There seems to be a problem with Gillian Carnegie's paintings - or maybe there are two problems. The first is deciding whether it is right to think that the paintings look old. If you think they do, then the second is deciding whether the fact that they look old means they are old (musty, fusty, conservative), or whether it means that looking old has become a new way to look new.

I was not unaware that some observers of the current scene - and I am talking about savvy people here, not naïfs - have had a hard time coming to terms with just what they are looking at when they stand in front of one of Carnegie's canvases, but I only really began to give it much thought back in February, when I happened to be visiting New York at the time of Carnegie's one-person show at the Andrea Rosen Gallery there. Now, my friend David Cohen, an English-born, New York-based critic and curator, runs something called The Review Panel at the National Academy uptown - a periodic event to which he invites a number of critics to exercise their craft, not (as they usually do) in writing, but orally. A number of current exhibitions are selected and each critic is asked to visit them; each critic gives his or her 'review', and then they argue out their disagreements, if any, before inviting the audience to chip in with their comments. I

  1. http://www.artcritical.com/REVIEWPANEL/RP15/index.htm (last accessed on 15 July 2007).

  2. Quoted by Hal Foster et al., Art Since 1900: Modernism Antimodernism Postmodernism, London: Thames & Hudson, 2004, p.160.

  3. Ibid., p.163.

  4. Ibid., p.165.

  5. Adrian Stokes, 'The Luxury and Necessity of Painting', The Critical Writings of Adrian Stokes, Vol. III: 1955-1967, London: Thames & Hudson, 1978, p.148.

  6. Clement Greenberg, '"American-Type" Painting', The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol.3: Affirmations and Refusals, 1950-1956, University of Chicago Press, 1993, p.230.

  7. Ibid., p.231.