9th June, 2018: OCA SW meeting with Brenda Miller: Bristol

9thJune, Bristol: OCA SW

OCA textiles tutor, Brenda Miller opened the day with a presentation of her latest work and inspirations for her PhD.  Details of this can be seen in the newsletter which was posted on the OCASA page of the OCA Communications page.  Students in all the pathways present, photography, history of art, textiles, painting & illustration got really valuable feedback and suggestions from everybody.

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What I got out of the day: reflections on peer feedback.

I presented my experiments of traced rock fault lines and added stretched pixel lines over pixellated background layers  and they were very well received.  I welcomed this as it encouraged me to continue with the experiments.   I should, however, have asked for specific feedback on, for example, how evident the inferences and similarities between rock formations and our own psychological make-up are? are the outlines useful?  do the stretched pixels add anything to the image?  do the resultant images tell us anything about photography today? does the colour add or detract from the concept? here I should have brought a b& w version of some of the images in order to compare.

In my opinion, the value of peer feedback, is to encourage discussion and to ask questions of the work presented and to think critically about work.  In a recent OCA bulletin we were asked to engage in precisely what peer criticism is and the author states: ‘A useful ‘critique’ ought to be a mixture of opinion, knowledge, and ideas.’. Perhaps we are too ready to ‘like’ as a default response which, as all default settings, are not specific enough and tell us nothing of the work presented other than that it is pleasing.  Particularly when we are in a peer group, face-to-face situation, we don’t like to openly challenge ideas or their expressions; perhaps we don’t have enough time to appreciate, validate and reflect on what is presented so, to limit any possible damage, we do not criticise effectively and only on our way home after the event we think of some points to make regarding the work.  Perhaps in a live presentation it would be best to do a round of introductions of the work, discuss a non-specific general topic and then go back to the work presented so that we have had time to digest what was seen and heard about the work?

The benefits and weaknesses of peer response are evident in both face-to-face and on ‘forum’ type web pages.  We are reminded about netiquette – how not to offend in a space where the person presenting work cannot respond immediately, how narrow the dividing line is between criticism and bullying, how the inflections and non-visual markers of communication are absent in a written-only context, how emojis have become such a vital part of our on-line communication vocabulary.

I have yet to experience professional feedback on my current work other than that of my tutor, but even there, there is such a strong emotive content that I, personally, don’t really know how to take the comments: not being at all confident about my work, I always assume a defensive frame of mind – I always see a negative side to whatever is said.  My SYP tutor, Helen Warburton, has warned me about getting professional advice on my portfolio: to ask those assessing it to look at specific aspects of it & not to simply say ‘comment on my work on this blog site’; rather ask if there is progression in the working to assess any artistic value in the work – depending, of course, on who is assessing it.  (More of this on tutor meeting blog).

The value of Saturday’s meeting for me was, in retrospect, that I must slant the perspectives on which I want more information regarding my work and that goes for peer and professional appraisal.

6 thoughts on “9th June, 2018: OCA SW meeting with Brenda Miller: Bristol

  1. Critique is such a sensitive topic especially in a situation where there’s only a short period of time in which to accept it let alone absorb it, so the emotional response takes over. Whenever I can I ask someone else to make notes on any verbal critique of my work so that I can reflect later. The idea would be to have a one-to-one with someone trusted to be honest yet thoughtful in comment, with time to ask questions and check meaning. I think your final paragraph is key.


  2. I’d say it’s impossible. Even though, when you do the work, it is very difficult to know who you are making that work for so you do it for yourself, and therefore you ought to be the best judge of it. Also, is a work ever finished?


    1. I’ve found that earlier version of anything I create are often the best, even though I keep on attempting to improve. Thee’s something about a rawer immediacy of them.


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