How To Write About Contemporary Art || Gilda Williams

Well yes I had to, didn’t I? I mean, you can only wing it for so long and I don’t think you can call yourself a true hipster critic unless you can come up with the right phraseology. It’s all about the juxtaposition of mores in a socio-cultural ethos these days, innit? Oh, ah. First lesson: avoid jargon and poor structure.

A book such as this absolutely stands or falls on its author and, without simply typing out the back-flap bio, I can say that Gilda Williams has an impressive pedigree, having written for a variety of publications and been Commissioning Editor at Phaidon.

Here are some tips:

Avoid lists, unless for dramatic effect to emphasise variety and excess. Well, regular readers will know that lists are a staple of a lot of my reviews, but strictly for that purpose and usually limited to three items. I mentioned it, but I think I got away with it.

Organise your thoughts into complete paragraphs. Yes, good one, but isn’t that the heart of all good, clear writing? I’d say you need to tell a story and, if at all possible, have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Frankly, I could go on. The fact is that this is a thoroughly sensible and accessible guide to writing that could almost be applied to any subject. Above all, it’s well-written (phew!) and there’s a narrative thread that takes you through basic stylistic tics and tropes and on to how to approach different styles of art and writing – from the essay to op-ed journalism and the artist statement.

Every publication will, somewhere, have a style guide for contributors. This book is the nearest thing to a universal one and makes for an invaluable vade mecum that should sit in a prominent place on your bookshelf.*

* Can a vade mecum do that? Shouldn’t it be in your pocket?

Click the picture to view on Amazon

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