I have been reading two books by Richard Noyce – art critic – ‘Printmaking at the Edge’, (2006, A&C Black) and ‘Printmaking beyond the Edge’, (2010, A&C Black). What I was hoping to find was an aesthetic criticism of print which would help me in making prints of my own, what I actually found was a number of fairly broad and rather vague statements about print, the ‘edge’ (which seems to be a desirable thing to be at for a print maker), the mass media, technology, photography, changing images, the ‘democracy of print, &c .
“In the end”, says Richard Noyce, we must either judge visual art by, “raw gut feeling”, (well, I do know what I like sometimes) or, “become more fully educated in the complex range of social and intellectual issues that affect and are contained within the particular work – and ultimately any work of art”. Not surprisingly he aims for the latter approach.
The author then moves on to consider 45 artists in the first book and 52 artists in the second book. He states that his criteria for inclusion is, “necessarily personal”, which seems to fall back somewhat on the “I know what I like” formula. What I would like to know is why he likes these from the many, many, many others around the world which he says he has encountered.
For each of the artists the author gives a pocket history and often some reasons why they do what they do. He does not attempt any judgement or comparisons that I could find. I found this approach unsatisfying, I wanted to know less about the artists and more about the prints: the material, the method, the success or otherwise of the prints, the purpose and the point. To give one example, discussing the lithographs and etchings of Marian Maguire Noyce says of one particular work, “…Maguire appropriates carefully selected imagery for combinations that perhaps should not work (my emphasis) but most emphatically do”. Well, ok, but what does that mean, to “work”? Surely the whole point of a critic is to inform us of just that, why one thing is successful and another is not? Or perhaps we just need to reach the intellectual level of an art critic, in which case, why the art critic at all? I don’t think I care about the edge, at least not from reading these books.