The Canadian Art Database

R. L. (Ron) Bloore

The Art Forum

Canadian Art, Vol. VIII #3, Spring 1951.
[ 756 words ]

Dear Sirs:

The condition of painting and sculpture in Canada has reached the point at which a sound critical view must be established. Painting has not progressed significantly within our borders — not even those who have studied in Mexico, Europe or elsewhere have returned with works beyond our standard level of mediocrity. They bring back a debasement of an idea or attempt to superimpose a superficial 'foreign' colouring upon Canadian themes. Those who do not leave play around with the old formulae, or dabble with modernism. Yet articles in our magazines and newspapers, with a complacent attitude equalled only by the self-satisfaction of the artists, praise and marvel at the vigorous, creative, lively qualities, etc. to be found they suppose in Canadian art. Such statements are falsifications of the actual conditions.

The quality of the reviews of exhibitions and the total lack of informed criticism are the most lamentable feature related to our painting and sculpture. These articles either reveal stupidity, disregard of integrity and intellectual honesty, a protective avoidance of the outside world, or a sensitivity even less developed than that of the artists. These pointless reviews and articles are not the competent criticisms that they purport to be. The glancing analysis of the arts which they give is a venomous censorship formulated simply and effectively by what is not said, by what is not mentioned and at times by such a distortion of fact that the point of reference is obscured without any other apparent justification than an optimistic propagandism of the development of our art for home consumption. Beyond our borders any claim or notions concerning the significance of Canadian art are ridiculous. The calibre of the comments must be improved from the present polite social chat regarding the smears on our gallery walls. The artists must awake or be awakened from their slumber. The reviewer must develop and unmercifully use a standard of judgment based upon the best works from the long history of art — not just in mild relationship to the questionable Group of Seven.

None of the articles reveals a consistent or progressive point of view — if any mature concept is reflected at all. Criticism is needed now, disinterested and idealistic. Criticism that will admit an interest in what is being created in the external world — and since this is for Canada also — what has been created within the last twenty or thirty years. The present reviewing must be replaced by constructive criticism from intelligent and perceptive men. The unbiased conclusions from such comparative investigation will be embarrassing to those who foster the optimistic view, even though they raise the excuses for the made in Canada label. The narrow-minded, self-laudatory artists and reviewers must be unmasked. One might say: just another case of the blind leading the blind — but the situation is far too serious. The critic must have an understanding of the technical as well as the formal approach towards painting and sculpture, combined with an excellent general knowledge of art history and an avid interest in contemporary American and European developments...prevalent regional policy, sanctimoniously maintained, of never looking beyond our borders or too often city limits must be abolished — anything will appear good or adequate when seen in no other context but its own.

The consequences of a sincere historical treatment coupled with penetrating criticism of contemporary Canadian work would be far-reaching and equivalent to a total revision of the vague ideas which embellish with undeserved haloes the arts in Canada.

Our unintelligent plagiarism of the obvious and less important qualities of the progress of others is childish mockery. No one points this out, there is only the pitiful acquiescing in the status quo evinced in the reviews. The reviewing which mentions only 'safe' names, i.e. referring to artists who have been around too long offering too little but have finally made an impression upon the minds of the reviewers by repetitive performances, must be eliminated. Intelligent criticism is urgently required. It would aid immeasurably in laying a foundation for the future development of the arts in Canada. Until now what there has been of it has been snow-bound with the arts.

Yours truly,
R. L. BLOORE, New York City

Canadian Art, Vol. VIII #3, Spring 1951.

Text: © Ron Bloore. All rights reserved.

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