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Reading to expand your practice

Michael Gallop
Artist Michael Gallop

Your art practice can be challenged and stimulated through reading. You can explore new ideas, be introduced to the work of other artists and designers, and interpret the relationship between art, design and the cultural environment.

When reading and making notes to expand your studio practice, look out for points of connection between what you are reading and the art you are making. Ask questions as you read. How has this person realised their vision? Does this express the same idea I have been thinking about? Does this information provide me with a framework for my own creation? Does it help me identify an artistic lineage for my work?

Reading can provide you with new understandings about materials, techniques and the focus of your art. Aesthetically, you can be challenged and inspired by the words you read and the images you see in texts which document the working lives of designers and artists. Visual art frequently draws on ideas from literature and philosophy, however all disciplines can offer a wealth of inspiration, so read widely.

Apart from books and professional journals, there is a wonderful range of the reading material to be found in the wider community. Some of the following may provide good starting points:

  • Magazines covering both popular culture and specialist interests can be found at any good newsagent. Some of these will also be available in your local or Monash libraries.
  • Galleries, both public and private, frequently have a range of published materials. Exhibition catalogues and artists' statements can be interesting reading and are good resources. It is worthwhile starting a collection of these publications for ideas and examples of how people write about art.
  • The daily and weekly press offer perspectives on social, political and economic issues, both national and international, through text and images. In addition, regular reading of newspapers can keep you in touch with what is happening in your area and city. This can give you access to many cultural events that could stimulate new ideas. The press offers reviews, feature articles and entertainment guides, such as The Age EG, which can keep you up-to-date. Keep an eye out for special exhibitions, festivals, expos, conferences, plays, films, concerts and any number of other cultural activities that may challenge your thinking and give you new inspiration.
  • Art Almanac and other similar publications offer information each month about exhibitions, both in capital cities and regional areas. These booklets can be bought at galleries and in newsagents or viewed on the web. They are helpful when planning your gallery visits.
  • Electronic newsletters can also offer interesting and useful reading. Newsletters can be subscribed to from organisations such as the following, so check their websites for details:

Apart from offering useful information, publications such as these can give you insight into how people write about ideas, designers, artists and their work. Read for enjoyment, but also try to read with a critical mind.

Consider not simply what is being said, but also how the writers have structured and expressed their thoughts. This writing can provide useful models for your own work.

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