A Guide to Critically Analysing your Art Works


Start with a formal description of what you see/hear/expereince ie how you are reading the work.

• Subject matter - What is an image/sound of?
• Materials - What is it made of? What techniques are used eg watercolour rather than oils.
• Dimensions - How big/small is it?
• Aesthetic - What colours, shapes, textures are involved? How is the work framed/exhibited?

Then ask what is the significance of your creative project using the following 5 persective approaches :

• Historical perspective (when, where and how did it happen?)
Locate your work in a context of time and space. What was happening at the time, and what were the ideas at work that gave rise to the work?

• Cultural perspective (what does it mean? values and beliefs)
What are the symbolic meanings of the work eg what difference is it that you chose to paint a cat in black rather than white? Or make the sculpture out of plaster rather than marble? What different connotations do these different signs provoke?

• Social perspective (how is it used/who uses it?)
Every artwork is given value by how it is used in society. It may become iconic (eg Picasso's Gernica) or outrageous (eg Sarano's Piss Christ). How is your artwork addressing different social groups - ie race/class/gender issues.

• Political perspective (what is it's role in terms of power?)
Every artwork is a political statement or at least has a political dimension. Nothing exists in a vacumn. Even a painting of an empty box is making a political statement depending on how and where it is exhibited. So what political issue or questions is your work addressing? Are they overtly or inadvertently pointing or "talking" about questions of inclusion or exclusion say.

• Aesthetic perspective (design aspects- how and why is it designed this way?)

How your work is fashioned is important to how it is read. A cast metal sculpture of an apple made out of gold is very different to one made out of rubber even though the same mold is used. The way the work is exhibited is also important - how it is circulated in the artworld changes its meaning. All these choices radically influence the reading of the artwork.


Now write down a set of bullet points for each perspective. Then expand these into sentences.

Include examples of other influential artist's work and critical expert views ie quotes and references where ever you can to support your ideas.

Remember that you are helping the reader to gain insights into your work that they might not bring themselves. You are providing sign posts, way s of thinking and seeing your artworks in context.


You can then use this analysis to prepare artist statements, press releases and articles for media and art press.

TIP If you can ask someone (art teacher/critic) to write as few comments on your work then include these too. Good for press releases especially.





Link to An Outline for Analysis