|Lamentation of the Spirits - Best of Show Illusions|
This always raises the question as to what makes a winner. A group of friends and I got into this discussion with photography recently. First it has to be a good. And this is true for all artistic endeavors, including poetry and music no doubt. Composition, which I would define as balance and proportion, is all important. And in painting or photography that balance and proportion extends to color and not merely the layout of shapes. A photographer can frame his shot and on the computer crop it to improve the composition. A painter gets total freedom over their composition.
The most important role of composition (and here I am going to expand and recklessly include poetry and music) is to catch the eye (or ear) of the viewer and draw them in. And move them deeper into the work and then release them. A static composition causes a subtle irritation in the viewer - a dissatisfaction. Admittedly their have been some movements in painting that sought just to slam the viewer against the canvas. Museums collect a lot of those.
I guess because I write I also believe that message or content is very important in the visual arts, but unfortunately has become rather back-staged (maybe it has something do do with those Slam movements). Art is so often today something pretty to hang on your walls. And those of us trying to make a living in these rough economic times are libel to pander to the masses on this. But this time of year, especially when entering a juried exhibit, we get to insert more message. It is by no means as obvious as in an essay but for those that are engaged in the work through composition it is there to be read.
When I am in the role of judge for an exhibition I always look for content. Does this very well crafted painting or photograph also say something to me? Those works that do make a statement will always win out over those which are just nicely practiced compositions of light and color. But judges are fickle. All viewers of art bring to the art their own experiences which alters their relationship to the work. Hey, I know people that don't like the Mona Lisa. Even the best of artists get rejected from time to time. And a prize winning piece can lose in the next competition.