The very fine art of critiquing

The critic will never find himself on the same level of the hierarchy of importance as the artist whose work is the subject of our critic’s dispassionate and thorough dissection.The existence of the critic is always dependent on the artist’s. Without the artist, a critic is a non-entity; this he knows oh too well. He accepts it as a given that he will always find himself a few notches below, on the lower wrung of the ladder relative to the artist.

He is someone whose opinions matter in only as far as they are relevant and timely. In the end, the work endures but the opinions of our humble critic dissipate until they crumble into fine dusts of oblivion. Probably this explains why he camouflages his rage with scandalous detachment and emphatic objectivity, a desperate act of giving a semblance of dignity to his unappreciated, cheap, and bastard art of critiquing.

Just recently, I became the object of scorn of my more senior colleagues because of a critique I posted in this blog and that which also appeared in a local paper. To cut it short, I gave unfavorable comments on their supposed creative works (Doesn’t this sound redundant? So instead of calling them ‘creative works’, which is rather verbose, ‘works’ will be used all throughout this essay.What these works are will not be specified here as I do not think information regarding their oeuvre is germane.)

And so there I was, as they might have imagined, looking meek and docile, unable to defend myself from their upbraiding of my humble person. I was not there to defend myself from their onslaught of invectives thrown at my name, and for this, thankfully, I spared myself from the hurt and aches those words would’ve inflicted on my vulnerable spirit, words that would have left me scarred permanently, for life.

Nevertheless, had I been given the chance to defend myself and the words I wrote in this blog and for that local publication, I would’ve been able to clear my name and make them understand that my review was devoid of malice, although I must admit it was a little bit sarcastic and left a bitter sting. But reviews are meant to have these characters.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about my experience in writing and which I’ve been teaching my students at the university, it’s being unabashedly unapologetic for whatever one writes so long as one did a thorough research, verified the information, or if writing a commentary, so long as it is judicious, fair, and well-written. With or without malice.

Malice is impossible to prove, and if proved, it automatically becomes defamatory, and a good critique is hardly, if ever, defamatory.

In fairness to the artist, the real one, I mean, he, most of the time, is impervious to critiques, favorable or damning. He does not mind what the critic says because he knows that his works are a masterpiece regardless of the contending opinion of the critic on them. For him, his works are not meant to be analyzed and dissected but felt and digested.

A critic does not figure in the universe of a real artist. Yes, he may read the critique of the critic but that’s just it, a pragmatic endeavor meant to pass time, like reading yesterday’s paper while defecating at seven in the morning.

But the sham artist, the artiste, the insecure newbie parading as a redeemer of the declining high art, is somebody the critic must handle with utmost care. His definition of art is anything so long as it is his art. Any critic’s opinion regarding art that runs counter his notion of what art is (which is, in this case, his art) is a declaration of war. And our poor critic who carefully drafted and phrased his review so as to maintain that air of objectivity and fairness is left in the mercy of the wrathful gaze and painful words spat by the up-and-coming artist, the noveau artist, our version of the equally pitiable noveau riche.

This noveau artist will definitely stoop to the level of the critic, or if need be, lower himself even further just to make a point and to put across the clear message that he is a true artist. Which of course will give a different message, that is, he is otherwise.

The critic, aside from exposing real art from sham, also exposes a true artist from a phony one. Critiquing is not an easy craft. Although not as prestigious as other high Art, it is as difficult to master. It takes one to have a very keen attention to detail, great finesse, a very stiff upper lip to fully master the very fine art of critiquing.

And the gall, if I may add.


12 thoughts on “The very fine art of critiquing”

    1. hey paul. i have not anymore asked permission from you in using that cartoon. but thank you so much. your drawing is very smart and provides a very truthful commentary on art criticism.

  1. karlo, i am very glad that something like this is emerging in the campus and it is inspiring to know that there are students who do not feel comfortable with the apathy and the seeming lack of intellectual sophistication of some members of the university.

    good luck.

  2. Thank you, sir Recabar. This kind of discourse is indeed still missing here in Miagao. On the side, we’re starting weekly informal discussions on literature, criticism, and popular culture over snacks and coffee. We hope to start a livelier atmosphere for the arts here. This should help. 🙂

  3. Hi, Sir Recabar.

    I don’t subscribe to the hierarchical primacy given to the work as opposed to what the critic says for eventually the latter cannot but become an inseparable part of the former. Both being producers of texts, the critic can be as important as the author.

    I, however, totally agree with the sentiment that so-called “artists” should not be afraid of criticism. In fact, criticism should be welcomed as one more opportunity for these “artists” to defend their “works”.

    Anyway, would it be possible to have this piece and the short film reviews published in our next issue of Busay? Thank you very much. 🙂


    1. hey karlo,

      if you consider both their works legitimate art forms, then you may be correct.

      as it is, the review, as some people told me, has already been blown out of proportion. but, for the sake of a debate, which we badly need at upv, please feel free. good luck.

  4. I’ve been looking for the article that caused this rift but I couldn’t find it. You deleted it? Or was it removed by the admin?

  5. An artist who gets a good or a bad reaction from their critique is better than getting none at all. With comments/critiques, they can improve on; without it, how will the artist move on?

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