Referring to media reviews of his projects as a young man which had helped him, he said he had hoped that as the society matured after Independence, the critical assessment of art would have improved. “Instead we have regressed. There is no critical analysis of artistic practice. Every review is a bland and benign ‘PR’ blurb,” Minshall said.
Every painter is ‘talented and self-taught’, every play ‘had the audience in stitches’, all the work is ‘wonderful’, when in fact a pall of mediocrity blankets the landscape,” he added. He said talent can’t produce anything of quality if there are no real standards.
“And there is no way to establish standards other than by critical dialogue, a conversation among artists and those who know art, as to what works and what doesn’t, what is good and what is bad, what is original and what is derivative, what is brilliant synthesis and what is plain pastiche.”
Art history and international references must also inform the dialogue.
“Every single work of mas I have ever created, I have approached with all the rigour and creative effort that a serious artist puts into the making of any work of art. He claimed, “Never in this country has a work of mas been the subject of a critical assessment, as a work of art. I know this as a fact, I have all the clippings”.
He said the news reports only said if it was “colourful”, “controversial”, or “keenly anticipated”.
“Never has a writer addressed how it worked as a work of contemporary art. This is a great disappointment to me”. He said his work in mas has had some analysis but mainly anthropological or sociological, not aesthetic or artistic.
“As a consequence of this, we as a society do not know what art is. We have not done the work to establish what are the critical terms of reference by which our own indigenous art-forms can be assessed.” He said this puts our artists and culture at a great disadvantage. Urging UWI to have a role in critical analysis, he urged, “A university should not be an ivory tower set apart but integrated into the life of the island community”.