selfie v2It’s easy to come across mirrors in art – they certainly feature in many well-known paintings, including the  Arnolfini Wedding, Las Meninas and the Rokeby Venus, both by Velazquez, Rubens’ “Venus at the Mirror”, Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror”, Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergere, Patrick Caufield’s “Bathroom Mirror”, Lichtenstein’s “Mirror  – and many others.

And since that cheeky chap Marcel Duchamp we also have real mirrors in artworks – the found object.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. As always, it was very interesting to see the range and variety of responses to the course as exemplified in the final exhibitions presented by different schools and candidates in the November examination session.

In a few cases there appeared to be a focus on ideas rather than art/techniques.

If the ideas are creative and meaningful, of course this is not necessarily a bad thing, although the assessment descriptors are fairly clear in rewarding many other things in addition to ideas.

In the top studio markband, three consecutive bullet points refer to ideas

  • understanding of the ideas and techniques
  • exploration of ideas
  • development of ideas and strategies

But – for example – the first bullet point refers to “understanding of the ideas and techniques that underpin artistic expression” – so examiners want to see both ideas and techniques.

Other bullet points refer to artistic qualities, sensitivity to materials and their use and technical competence. These imply that the candidate needs to be involved in the process of making art, not just depicting the idea in a simplistic or purely conceptual manner.

This may seem obvious, but unfortunately, some exhibitions contained work that showed almost no evidence of making art and/or process. It is difficult to give high marks when this occurs.

Also of course, the interview is not assessed: the candidate might be quite passionate and articulate when explaining ideas and the “meaning” of the work, but this does always contribute significantly to the mark awarded.

For example, submitting studio files showing photographs of a number of mirrors (found object, unaltered), and talking eloquently about the many things that a mirror means does not necessarily persuade the examiner to give more marks.

Buying  (or borrowing) a few mirrors, taking photographs of them and then submitting the image files as evidence of your studio work is at best a risky thing to do. There really are better things to do with your (limited) time in the visual arts course..

Yes, a mirror may be a metaphor and may “mean” many things, and as we have seen you can find them and/or depictions of them in many artworks.

However, given the visual arts assessment criteria, a series of found objects (e.g. mirrors) presented as a final exhibition may not achieve very highly, even if they are explained in the interview with passion and eloquence!