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An Interpretive Painting Guide: How to Make a "Self Portrait of a Great Curator?
开放性绘画指南 ——如何画一幅 “伟大策展人的自画像”?

March, 2021

“With every stroke of the brush a new field of inquiry is laid open; new difficulties arise, and new triumphs are prepared over them.” 

—— William Hazlitt, 

“On the Pleasure of Painting”

Painting is a journey of one's inner psyche laid bare with each stroke of a brush. Similarly, every curatorial attempt is the curator’s “constant self-reflexivity” put out to the world.


Tara McDowall used “Shapeshifters” as the name for a curator’s symposium, curators such Harald Szeemann, Kate Fowle, Hans Ulrich Obrist and David Levi Strauss used a list of many professions to decode what a curator does. Indeed, I find it impossible to pin down a definition for a curator because it is an amalgamation of many fields and subjects yet the role is ever-changing due to circumstances. It’s no surprise that to the general public, a mysterious cloud seems to loom around the title of “curator” making it both alluring yet unapproachable. 


Inspired by the ways of street artists, I believe a curator should bring art to the world instead of bringing the world to art. In order to make art more accessible, I feel the need to demystify, democratise and decentralize the idea of a curator. In the step by step guide of interpretive painting, the values of a curator are integrated into each step. My intention is by following the steps, anyone can create a visual representation of a curator using their own interpretations. As a result, the idea of a curator would take shape organically in a highly individualized fashion. When developing this guide, I focused on the core attributes of a curator and the development of curatorial methodologies rather than the tasks a curator would undertake, in hope that the list bears wider applicability and endures the test of changing circumstances and time.

I find great resonance in that the notion of exhibiting art is at the heart of curating, therefore choosing the process of painting as an analogy for curatorial practice was an intuitive decision. Yet the methodology was developed with deliberate consideration. As Walter Hopps puts it, presenting an exhibition requires “as broad and sensitive understanding of an artist’s work as a curator can possibly muster. This knowledge needs to go well beyond what is actually put in the exhibition.” Through participating in the process of artmaking, a better understanding of an artist’s practice can be formed therefore leads to a curator-art/artist relationship beyond the exhibition.

Echoing Hazlitt’s words about painting, curating is also very much a test of vision and skills. The difference is, whilst the painter may not always be aware of her audience, a curator should always put the audience in her forethought. Although curatorship requires a lot of introspection, an exhibition is only activated when it’s put to an audience. With this in mind, I’ve broken down the process of painting into instructional steps, put them together as a guide to help people navigate through the values and attributes of curatorship using visual language. Similar to curating, the painting guide requires the participation of the painter to fully realize its function.   


In the guide, painters are required to follow the steps with their own interpretation. The guide mimics curatorship -- upon the underlying supporting academic structure, the practice requires flexibility and adaptability in the application to garner complete creative control over the end result.


This guide attempts to keep the elements and attributes involved in curating clear and straightforward within the steps. Each step is a small prompt for a painting action, as a reflection of the curatorial practice. The steps aim to provoke the painter to inquire into her methodology and then making informed decisions hereon. The guide is meant to be followed at each person’s own discretion until she sees the painting as complete. The “Before We Begin” and “Preparation” sections are also made with close attention, they are imbued with core values such as commitment and patience, and it emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinarity. 


The demonstration and the finished painting was felt to complement the painting guide as they offer a possibility of interpretation. The demonstration is an effort to help painters to get started, find their visual styles, and shape their thinking processes. The final painting shows how critical understanding of the curatorial practice can be manifested through visual language. As Maria Lind writes “the curatorial is a viral presence that strives to create friction and push new ideas, whether from curators or artists, educators or editors”, this painting guide plants itself amongst the painters and welcomes customization and experimentation to prompt a dialogue in curatorial exploration. ||


——威廉·哈兹利特 (William Hazlitt)





塔拉·麦克道尔 (Tara McDowall) 使用“变形者”作为策展人座谈会的名称,Harald Szeemann、Kate Fowle、Hans Ulrich Obrist 和 David Levi Strauss 等策展人使用了一系列职业来解读策展人的工作。的确,我发现不可能给策展人下一个定义,因为它是许多领域和主题的融合,而其角色却因环境而不断变化。毫不奇怪,对于普通大众来说,“策展人”的头衔似乎笼罩着一层神秘的云彩,既诱人又令人难以接近。



我找到了很大的共鸣,因为展示、解读和呈现艺术是策展的核心,因此选择“绘画”作为策展实践的类比是一个直觉性的决定。然而,该方法是经过深思熟虑而开发的。正如沃尔特·霍普斯 (Walter Hopps) 所说,举办一场展览需要“策展人所能达到的对艺术家作品的广泛而敏感的理解。这些知识需要远远超出展览中实际展示的内容。”通过参与艺术创作的过程,可以更好地了解艺术家的实践,从而形成展览之外的策展人/艺术/艺术家关系。







演示和完成的绘画被认为是对绘画指南的补充,因为它们提供了解释的可能性。该演示旨在帮助画家入门,找到他们的视觉风格,并塑造他们的思维过程。最后一幅画展示了如何通过视觉语言表达对策展实践的批判性理解。正如玛丽亚·林德 (Maria Lind) 所写,“策展人是一种病毒式存在,致力于制造摩擦并推动新的想法,无论是策展人、艺术家、教育家还是编辑”,这幅画作指南植根于画家之间,并欢迎定制和实验以促进对话策展探索。||

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