Winter 2008 | Gallery

Louay Kayyali’s Opinion of Art Criticism

By and

Translated by Hiba Morcos


I have a very particular opinion about art criticism in general, and in Syria specifically; it is sharp and frank.

An artist’s mission ends when he presents his production to the audience, and nobody has the right to ask for an explanation from the artist about his work of art. Rather, they should ask someone else, the art critic, who has the sensual and aesthetic qualifications that brings him closer to an artist’s production and drives him to appreciate a pure work of art. He also has the academic and artistic qualifications that make him understand the production. From there he works on analyzing and explaining it, then on critiquing and evaluating it. That is no easy job at all. For the art critic has the same moral and material responsibility that the artist himself has when presenting his production.

Therefore, we can say that a sensitive person can easily appreciate beauty based on the theory of relativity. But it is difficult, rather it is very difficult, to analyze and explain a work of art, let alone evaluate and find criteria for it! Because a judgment has to be backed by a wide artistic culture encompassing the latest developments in art. It should also be backed by a sense of responsibility towards one’s word. Who, then, has the courage – and I insist on this word – to prove that one person is indeed an artist, and that another person has nothing to do with art? The person who has the right to issue such a verdict, must consider himself, if not on a higher level than the artist in terms art culture, than at least at his level. That is if we neglect the issue of sensitivity in a work of art, which is its most important attribute.

A quick look at what has been written – and this is the crux of the matter – about different areas of the arts until now reveals that in essence it has consisted of no more than subjective impressions. If these impressions did not err in one aspect of artistic criticism they most certainly would in the subsequent aspect! A very erroneous notion in our country is that art criticism means either lauding the artist’s production or defaming it. In addition, art criticism has never been at any time a means to gain the approval of the artist or a certain category [of people] and not the other… The only constant is that art, whether it satisfies a critic or not, cannot in this country be said to have crystallized or realized its potential.

What must be admitted is the existence of enormous possibilities and genius. So it’s not that important to produce lists of artists or to categorize them according to artistic schools or currents. That is a matter of the critics’ own creativity.

For all this, we still need a person who is sensitive —as sensitive as an artist, cultured—perhaps more so than the artist, and objective, with a sense of responsibility towards the words he consciously and faithfully adopts.

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