I recently helped to raise money to purchase a picture by Richard Pentreath of the C19th Zennor poet, Henry Quick. Quick was a disabled man with few if any skills, but he could read and write and he made poems – many acrostics and the enigmatically fine yet primitive ‘Life and Progress of Henry Quick’. His story was told by P A S Pool. Quick wrote from compulsion and he sold broadsheets to an audience on market days in Penzance.
Many others create in many media, not for acclaim or appreciation, but because something inside moves them to it. The picture will hang in the forthcoming Kresenn Kernow Cornish National Archive and Library as a celebration of all those in Cornwall who have instinctively, compulsively written incidents, beliefs, stories, reports, journals and poems.
Where people create for audiences, it is important to place the work at formative stages in its process in front of people whose sensory experience can be translated into an engaged language to kindle, fire and clarify the creative process – as fire needs oxygen, so art needs critics – not knockers and disparagers, but people who are willing and open to becoming part of the creative process.
A good critic will intertwine, will not say too much, and will read not only the work but the process too, of an artist under his eye. Having somebody who will immerse and read your process and work can help to drive and evolve the creative endeavour. Very few, if any, artists work in isolation, or alone. Interaction and discourse are important parts of honing the expression.
Much of this happens informally, without it being cast as work. It will have diverse dynamics – some do it with a quarrel, some with a smile! We are fools to either deny it or to avoid it because, I suspect, it is the element in the creative process which generates the sparks and hooks that win and move audiences. Indeed, a good critic is an essential part of creating audiences.
The critical process is important to every member of an artist’s audience. It is to be hoped that, however an artist chooses to discuss art with their audience, the discussion occurs. A confident spectator can become involved in the creative process, and that will make the experience whole and meaningful, and the inevitable transaction more wholesome than mere commerce.
Before he died recently I was lucky to spend time with theatre director, Bill Mitchell, of Wild Works. He said that his creative ambition was to make work which broke down the barrier between player and audience so that the act of theatre becomes one of community, with everybody becoming part of the experience. At his final production, Wolf’s Child, at Trelowarren, in the rain, in the woods, at dusk, his ambition was fulfilled. Without disbelief to suspend, and without the critical facility to enter into the work, such an experience would not have been possible. Even the half-drunk gossipers at the back of the promenade shut up and became immersed – as critics make work, so work makes critics, and audiences attend to the art!
Bert Biscoe, Viajor Gans Geryow was Barded in 1995 at Marazion for services to Cornwall. Joined GK Council in 2009. Political Advisor to Bardh Meur.
Volume 32 no.2 November/December 2017 p6