Arts in the news: Evaluative language use in the ‘art review’

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Arts in the news: Evaluative language use in the ‘art review’

Sara Radighieri

Department of Language and Cultural Sciences

University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

1. Introduction

The aim of this paper is to provide a provisional representation of the ways in which evaluation is expressed in art reviews. The view on evaluation adopted for the present study is the one derived by Thompson and Hunston (2000: 5):

Evaluation is the broad cover term, for the expression of the speaker or writer’s attitude or stance towards, viewpoint on, or feelings about the entities or propositions that he or she is talking about.

In other words I will consider as evaluative all kinds of expressions (words, adjectives, clauses, grammar constructions) used by the writer in order to give a representation of the object under review. I use the word ‘representation’ since the visual presentation of what the writer is reviewing is very important in this kind of texts and the representation of what the reviewer saw is part of the process of evaluation in an art review itself.

The fuzziness of the term ‘evaluation’ has often been noticed together with the possibility to apply it to a broad number of concepts: stance, appraisal, implicitness, metadiscourse, personal opinions, forms of argumentation 1. Evaluation can be considered as a broad term that can be referred either to argumentation-related moves, i.e. sequences of moves that require evaluation, or to forms of less explicit evaluation as those expressed through ‘semantic prosody’ for example. (Mauranen 2004) 2
The view on evaluation adopted in this research builds on the definition given by Thompson and Hunston (2000) in order to explain how the writer (reviewer) conveys evaluation in his/her texts; in particular, the analysis will adopt a framework derived from a system of analysis described by Hunston and Sinclair (2000) in order to help describing the language used for evaluation providing a specific Local Grammar of Evaluation.
The concepts of value and status can contribute to an understanding of the concept of evaluation. Hunston (2000: 176-207) relies on Sinclair’s planes of discourse to describe the relations and constraints operated respectively by status and value in the representation of evaluation in texts.
Building on Sinclair (1981; 2004) language in use can be seen as “ both a negotiation between participants and a developing record of experience” (Sinclair 2004: 52), the interactive and the autonomous planes of discourse respectively. Sinclair claims that it is on the interactive plane of discourse that evaluation finds its utmost realization, even though this does not deny the possibility of expressing evaluation even at the level of the autonomous plane of discourse; indeed, on this plane, the writer (the reviewer in this case) decides how to represent the world and inevitably the lexical and combinational choices of words on the part of the writer determine evaluation.
Hunston (2000) defines status as the “variable alignment of ‘world’ and ‘statement’” (Hunston 2000: 183), and it consists in the “orientation [that a statement has] with respect to the world outside the text” (Ibid: 185). In this sense, each utterance can be expressed as a fact or an assessment (statement types) and the source can be either averred or attributed, and the combination of these elements determines the status of the text, which in turn determines and influences the (positive or negative) value of the utterance. By exploring these constraints of status upon value, Hunston explores evaluation.
So it is clear that evaluation operates in a very complex way on two levels: the level of content (entities) and the level of construction (propositions); both levels must be taken into account because the reviewer is always operating on these two levels confronting himself/herself with a value system which has to be negotiated (on the interactive plane) and trying to represent the world of the event (on the autonomous, in this case representational plane). It is indeed evaluation on the autonomous plane that is taken into consideration here. The further analysis of the evaluative processes on the interactive plane of discourse would take into account also elements of textual organization which are not at the centre of the present study.
The theme of evaluation obviously plays a major role in the definition of a genre like the art review. The art review can be described briefly as a newspaper’s article appearing in the ‘Art’ section of newspapers usually once a week and providing the readers with some reviews of major exhibitions and gallery shows all over the world. The basic structure of the art review consists of: the title, a discursive body and some information on where and when the exhibition is going to be or is being held. The most interesting features of the art review as a genre lie in the body of the article, where the impressions about the event are provided.
As a matter of fact, even though media discourse has been studied for many years now, the art review as a genre has not yet been object of a thorough analysis. The art review can be regarded as a feature article; indeed it is highly characterized by the personal style of the writer and it is usually written on request and by specialized writers. For this reason for example the editing process tends to leave much of the article as it is when the writer sends it to the newspaper and any change that is made carefully tries to keep the writer’s style. (Hodgson 1989) Writer’s style is very important in features, and also in art reviews, because whereas news tend to or pretend to “present the facts as they are found” (Ibid.: 29), features give the opportunity to express personal comments and opinions. Moreover features’ writers usually write under their own name; This is the reason why style in feature articles is so marked: “The writer uses words to play on the sensations of the readers, to give colour and rhythm. The length of the words and the use, or otherwise, of adjectives help the writer to inject either pace or languor into the writing.” (Ibid.: 33) and “it must entice in the reader through the quality and colour of its prose.” (Keeble 2001: 222) In other words the writer expresses his/her point of view, and specifically in art reviews part of this task is accomplished by the writer not only by giving his/her opinion about the event, but also by giving or building a visual representation of what s/he saw inside the exhibition (Radighieri, forthcoming). It is important to keep in mind that most people who read an art review will never go and see the exhibition, and only a few who read it might have seen it earlier, so the review has most of the times a life of its own. Some common characteristics of the art review have been pointed out such as describing the aim of the exhibition or giving an opinion about choice and aptness of the exhibition (Hodgson 1989: 39-40) however much of the work on how these opinions are expressed and where evaluative comments lie has still to be done.
It becomes clear from the first lines of an art review that this kind of writing is completely evaluative. It can be said that the aim of the genre is indeed to provide the evaluation of an event. The aim of the present analysis is to highlight the main features of the genre maintaining a particular focus both on recurrent textual structures and on the ways in which evaluation is expressed exploring the main tools of evaluation found in the corpus – in terms of the most frequent “things evaluated” and “evaluative categories” (Hunston and Sinclair 2000) and providing some results about the evaluative use of markers of analogical procedures (e.g. asas, like) showing that they play a key role in the verbal representation of evaluation; some of the preliminary results of the current research are summarized and presented as some of the recurrent operations that the art reviewer seem to draw on regularly in order to express some kind of evaluation.
The analysis is based on a large corpus of art reviews collected from four major international newspapers available in electronic format. The larger study combines a discursive approach and corpus analysis tools, word lists and concordances; however this article presents the results obtained adopting a corpus based approach for an analysis of recurrent grammar patterns.

2. Materials and methods

For the present study I have collected art reviews from some of the main quality newspapers in the UK and the USA. In particular, after a brief overview of the suitable newspapers for the aim of this study, a choice was made among newspapers available on-line, since the material had to be machine readable (McEnery and Wilson 1997, Kennedy 1998, Bowker and Pearson 2002) in order to facilitate computer data processing.

Exploiting the provisional availability of a database ProQuest Newstand (distributed by Burioni Ed. in Italy), I started downloading art reviews from the major newspapers in the countries cited above The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Washington Post and New York Times (Late Edition; East Coast).
I downloaded all the art reviews available between May 15th 2004 and November 15th 2004 in the four specified newspapers. Each downloaded article was then read to check and decide whether it was suitable to be included in the corpus of art reviews and each mistaken article was left out.
The final corpus is now composed of 957 art reviews (934.578 words) and below it is possible to see a table summarizing the main characteristics of the four sub-corpora building the art reviews corpus:
Table 1. Sub-corpora in the art reviews corpus.


No. of files

No. of words

Type/token ratio

The Daily Telegraph




The Guardian




New York Times




Washington Post




In order to carry out a fist preliminary analysis, I identified a small sub-corpus made of 25 art reviews randomly chosen from The Guardian. This corpus is made of 23.466 words with a type/token ratio of 23,23. This small sub-corpus was used to carry out a preliminary qualitative analysis in order to spot the main discursive characteristics which are not the aim of the present study but of a larger study 3. Parallel to this analytic approach, a relevant part of the investigation relies on theories and procedures building on the premises of Corpus Linguistics. In order to analyse features of evaluation, spatial deixis and description in general, I made use of Wordsmith Tools 4.0 (Scott, 2004) which enables to retrieve concordances, frequency and alphabetical wordlists and keywords.

In particular, by using concordance lines it was possible to see how adjectives and grammatical constructions behave in a specific context; moreover, one of Wordsmith Tools 4.0’s characteristics is that it makes it possible to retrieve words and phrases using wildcards, and this feature was very helpful to retrieve recurrent lexical and grammatical patterns.
In order to identify characteristic features of the art review I relied both on intuition and data analysis of the texts. I first ran a frequency wordlist of my corpus so as to get some information on relevant words and I then checked them in context to see whether they were specific to the genre or not. At the same time I read some reviews and then checked my intuitions against corpus evidence, both in case of specific words or phrases and in case of certain grammatical constructions. Nevertheless the aim of the analysis is not so much providing an exhaustive lexicon of the art review but providing an approach to the analysis and understanding of this specific genre.
Running a simple wordlist on the corpus it was possible to notice that evaluative adjectives were very frequently used in art reviews; for this reason, I first decided to try whether the local grammar of evaluation and the relative grammar patterns described by Hunston and Sinclair (2000) were applicable to these texts and whether they helped in the identification of ways through which evaluation could be expressed. Hunston and Sinclair (2000)’s description of a Local Grammar of Evaluation starts from a view of language based on the idea that when words share patterns, they should also share meanings and, as a consequence, if one wants to look for evaluation in discourse, s/he should be able once s/he has “isolate[d] the total number of patterns that adjectives occur in […] to specify a limited set of patterns that typically occur with evaluative words”. (Ibid: 83-84)
My analysis intended to isolate the patterns already identified by Hunston and Sinclair. Using the concordances of evaluative adjectives and Wordsmith Tools 4.0, I tried to study whether the adjectives occurring in the patterns are evaluative or not. In this way I meant to check whether Hunston and Sinclair’s model was applicable to art reviews and whether it could be further specified with reference to the genre. This would first of all help me in the identification of the ways used to express evaluation and secondly to isolate and identify new patterns of evaluation. Some preliminary comments on the semantic areas of the adjectives used in these patterns are provided.

3. Results

The analysis started with the retrieval of already isolated patterns, i.e. anticipatory it, the dummy subject there, the pseudo-clefts what (for a detailed explanation see Hunston and Sinclair in Hunston and Thompson 2000). The model was then enlarged by providing the identification of three further patters of evaluation typically characterizing art reviews.

3.1. Anticipatory IT (Hunston and Sinclair 2000)
This pattern uses an empty subject ‘it’ followed by a verb, an adjective and then either a THAT clause or a TO- infinitive or –ing form. It is important to see here that the thing evaluated 4 comes after the THAT clause and the evaluative category corresponds to the adjective coming before the object of evaluation. In the following tables you see some examples for each pattern.
Table 2. Concordances of Anticipatory it (IT + V + ADJ + THAT clause)
s associated with conservative? I think it is amazing that the Tate is showing m

ine sunsets.Looking at this exhibition, it is clear that the sky is paramount in

ar had a huge impact on their lives and it is clear that they involved much mor

human form and surrounding structures. It is clear that the new Alpine architec

for someone to blame. However, we feel it is clear that we are all victims of a

ear.If Ms. Bass were to sell the house, it is doubtful that she could find a buy

client - and presumably the sitter too. It is good that the Wallace Collection,

tish Artists" household names, he said:"It is fair that collectors should have

ders to imagine what has been lost, and it is likely that major works by leading

e volume of the space will be explored. It is likely that Nauman will also have

hange. This is not news, of course. But it is noteworthy that all across the Wes

e on the left and clothed on the right. It is possible that this represents Geor

could not have anticipated Warhol, but it is possible that Warhol was inspired

fluence: some really deserve it. "But it is ridiculous that some should have t

to Tate Britain. "I don't think that it is surprising that it hasn't been see

out a commensurate increase in funding. It is true that the BM has been free for

age brothel known as Le Parc aux Cerfs. It is true that this brothel existed - L

ntrolled climates to protect the works. It is understood that they are also fitt

e rare, unusually shaggy kind of stone. It is unfortunate that the Mockbee show

you may want to visit it several times. It is unlikely that we will see a garden

: image after image, story after story. It is unusual that an artist should rest

an interview". Bautista insists that it is vital that companies get involved
Here it is interesting to see how each adjective occurring in the pattern is an evaluative adjective. Moreover what happens in this kind of construction is that the adjective evaluating the thing itself, i.e. the phrase coming afterwards, is in a sense anticipating how the following sentence is interpreted and intended by the writer, and in a way tends to influence or ‘guide’ the reader. The same happens with the second realization of this pattern (Table 3.) and with the third (Table 4.) below.
Table 3. Concordances of Anticipatory it (IT + V + ADJ + TO-inf.)
in the style of that part of the world. It is astonishing to encounter acanthus l

er him obsessed by death. "As an artist, it is difficult to make work on any level of

xact miniature double for a dummy - that it is difficult to believe he has any real re

to the excellent selection of materials. It is easy to tell that folks who know the

alleries can fill up with people. Still, it is gratifying to realize that some of the

apanese artists did the same in Britain. It is hard to imagine what the pragmatic

here is so much going on this week that it is hard to pick highlights, but the nam

ise the Yellow Book aesthetic of 1890s, it is hard to associate his paintings with

les with preconceptions based on race. It is hard to know how deeply Kelly thou

But, as with present-day globalisation, it is hard to marvel at the free flow and c

were just lucky, I guess." Levine said it is important to remember World War II

ish for cellulite and small breasts. But it is important to realise that, at least ea

re no picture captions for the images so it is impossible to know exactly what th

yton-Jones was opaque, explaining that it is impossible to produce a clear figure

ntense, luminous and incredibly focused.It is interesting to compare Ms. Parker's

orth's poetry was shaped by Milton, and it is moving to see this tribute to Milton's

ting their imagery. In Mr. Busby's case, it is necessary to know the rationale, bu

nside an artificial frame. And, indeed, it is possible to see the piece as a mere

esign at the museum.In that climate, it is possible to execute Mr. Taniguchi's

my theory is scant, admittedly, although it is possible to construct a narrative alo

back now, 20 years after Neel's death, it is possible to see how she took a quin

ader to Gushchin's mocking satire) that it is tempting to go back and view the ex

Table 4. Concordances of Anticipatory it (IT + V + ADJ + ING-form)

image of a woman, a type. The nude. It is tempting, looking at the turbulent lif

ould do so in natural daylight. But it is worth noting that the Prado is soon

ering with his flow of creative ideas. It is worth noting, however, that in the d

All adjectives in these patterns have an evaluative meaning. In some cases the utterance is attributed as in the example on the last line in Table 2. “Bautista insists that it is vital that” while in others the utterance is indirectly averred by the author as in “it is noteworthy that” or “it is good that”. 5
As a preliminary comment on the use of adjectives occurring in the Anticipatory It pattern in my corpus, it is possible to state that there are preferred semantic areas for at least the first two realizations of the pattern.: adjectives followed by THAT-clause and adjectives followed by TO-infinitive. As to the THAT-clause pattern, it can be said that there is a tendency for the adjectives to express a degree of certainty/ uncertainty (likely, possible, unusual, doubtful, true, clear).It is also important to notice that there seems to be a slight preference for the use of adjectives that convey a sense of facility in noticing something or stating something on the part of the writer as in “it is clear that the sky is paramount in her paintings.” There are also some examples of adjectives expressing an appropriateness of choice in the larger context (either negative or positive, unfortunate, surprising, amazing, ridiculous) and even though they are not many, they seem to be peculiar of this genre; an example: “It is unfortunate that the Mockbee show has been crowded into two small galleries”. As to the TO-infinitive pattern, it is possible to see a preference for using adjectives which express a sense of difficulty in doing something (hard, difficult, easy) and a sense of possibility /impossibility (possible, impossible). 6

3.2. Dummy subject THERE (Hunston and Sinclair 2000)
This grammar pattern typically expresses a judgement of good or bad. Hunston and Sinclair also stress the fact that sometimes nationality adjectives may appear in this pattern; here it is possible to see principally judgements as in e.g. ‘there is something magical’ or ‘there is something sinister’, and moreover rather than nationality adjectives, the art reviews corpus shows preference for adjectives or compounds representing artistic movements and the epistemology of artistic representations/ productions, e.g. cubist, of the rococo, or the same spirit in its design.
Table 5. Concordances of Dummy subject there (THERE + V + SOMETHING + ADJ + about / in)

in this show. At the same time there is something almost stifling about the

free-flowing, balletic bronze. There is something almost cubist about the

he polyurethane, witnessing nothing. There is something both touching and bleak

as if ready for transport to market. There is something both marvelous and terri

ike a collection of children's toys. There is something comical and sinister ab

th parents, children, and partners. There is something faintly melancholy abou

'hallucinating in Paradise.'' And there is something genuinely disorienting a

ar as we know, was an accident. Yet there is something horribly ironic in the l

are for wimps and Bill Viola fans. Yet there is something in the cumulative presen

pital and the Nobsend cemetery. There is something inescapably schoolboyish

ch icon, it is in part because we know there is something ludicrous about the sigh

irit as well." Despite the pragmatism, there is something magical in Rego's account

to like? Their colors are well tuned. There is something of the rococo in their g

erence to Rome rather than Athens, yet there is something of the same spirit in it

ded me of the dorsal fins of sharks. There is something sinister here in the opt

popular. Gigs The choice Kelis There is something so carnally, saucily fem

boundaries, an unreadable expression. There is something terrible in all this, bu

they relate to the human body too, and there is something wonderfully invigorating
Table 6. Concordances of Dummy subject there (THERE + V + NOTHING + ADJ + about/ in)
or even advertising. But there is nothing banally commercial about his poster

lines a tactile urgency. There is nothing daringly radical about his art. He

rt are in formation, and there is nothing intrinsically ''right'' about hich

e that is never broached; there is nothing new in the art here that is ere is

formalism to be against. There is nothing oppressive about a vase. There a

ize; he remains detached. There is nothing sententious about these images, wh

of them autobiographical. There is nothing simple about the dark eyes that an

mmetry and variation, but there was nothing in these slickly lit studio

them a mere interlude.But there was nothing ''mere'' about this period. It w

which means pure, though there was nothing pure about it. The Manchus were o

3.3. Pseudo-clefts (Hunston and Sinclair 2000)
This pattern typically begins with what, then a verb and then an adjective followed by a link-verb and a clause. Here the thing evaluated comes at the end of the sentence after the link-verb and the adjective that represent the evaluative category.
Table 7. Concordances of Pseudo-clefts (WHAT + V + ADJ + link-V + clause)

What is exhilarating about India is also what is disorienting about it, at least at

what is exceedingly remarkable is that the intoxication thus produced, instea

What is important to any artist is that his work is shown well. When a commercial

What is important is not what Sierra made, but how he made it - and that is what w

what is immediately clear is how fabulous the individual images are. That is c

what is interesting in Boucher's case, apart from the often underrated paintin

What is less well known is that in his tenure at the gallery, Mr. Wilmerding, now 66

What is most revelatory, however, is the dialogue between the protean fox Picasso

what is more contemporary than Pauley's pop, street-art sensibility and gentl

What is perhaps most surprising about this show in general is the engageme

What is new, I think, is that these dealers now mount exhibitions that in the old da

What is perhaps most surprising about this show in general is the engagement of it

what is most shocking is her face. She hasn't got one. It is a violent smear, a

what is surprising about this piece is not its energy or movement but its peac

What is unusual about his prints is that, for an artist simply recording project ide

what is unusual and special about them: a remarkable linear qu

What isn't in question is that the pale, spectral tracery of this masterpiece seems

This pattern seems to be used to signal mainly events or situations or comments which are or should sound as something novel to the readers: revelatory, new, exceedingly remarkable. Similarly exhilarating is used here to bring to the reader’s attention a feature of India which is unknown to the majority of people and most shocking is used to draw the reader’s attention on a specific feature of the painting.
All the patterns analysed until now seem to behave as Hunston and Sinclair had hypothesized and tested in their Local Grammar of Evaluation. The patterns that I am going to illustrate below aim to provide a further specification of the Local Grammar of Evaluation or at least of the way evaluation is expressed through the use of recurrent patterns in texts.

3.4. Analogical patterns

A specific feature of the art review is to be found in the commonest among figures of speech, i.e. analogy. In the specific case of art review, analogy is composed of an adjective occurring as a comparative such as “The works are as beautiful as any you are likely to find […]” or “[…] cracked it open as neatly as an Easter egg”.

Analogy is described by Olbrechts-Tyteca (in Mortara-Garavelli 2003: 88-102) as one of the main argumentation techniques. In particular, Olbrechts-Tyteca states that arguments are based on and realized through different schemes. When we want to represent the real world we can rely either on single cases, using examples and models, or on analogy (and metaphor). Analogy is based on a relationship of similarity between the elements building analogy, however in order for analogy to be effective the elements building it must belong to different domains, otherwise we have the example. (Mortara-Garavelli 2003)
The case of analogical procedures in the art review is very interesting because it is possible to outline a specific structure: a thing being evaluated, a verb, as/so ADJ as and a noun phrase, where, interestingly both the adjective and the noun phrase in the comparison correspond to the evaluative category; in this sense we have an adjective which characterizes the thing evaluated with a backward movement, and meanwhile it projects its meaning onwards towards the second element of the comparison, and at the same time the noun phrase following the comparison projects its value back to the thing evaluated and contributes to the specification of the adjective used, e.g. “green-blue water as sheer as glass” or “the impact of pictures as breathtaking as Veronese’s Venus”; so first the reader is told that the water is green-blue and then s/he has two elements to draw on to get a visual corresponding representation of the thing evaluated and represented in the review. This mechanism is typical of the art review where the reviewer is trying to perform a double task, reviewing or giving a judgement of what s/he saw and trying to give a visual representation of the exhibition for the reader who might not have been or might not yet have been to the exhibition her/himself.
Table 8. Concordances of analogy (Thing evaluated + (V) + AS/ SO ADJ AS + noun phrase)

s insistent as a political poster and as alluring as a film advertisement.

are just objects now, dead, encased, as ancient as the decaying sand fac

rtage, but neither as captivating nor as artful as the work of someone like

all her own. Though her patter isn't as assured as her singing, I loved wh

t would have a wild sight, and almost as audacious as filling all that space

f a car's wipers on the windscreen is as bad as a scream. And to Alfred Hi

but as objects of art. The works are as beautiful as any you are likely to fi

54, the groom gave his bride a pearl as big as a pigeon's egg. More than

works dilute the impact of pictures as breathtaking as Veronese's Venus,

piling the broadsheets that are often as captivating as the objects in his s

e is shown out hunting with his dogs, as casual as any other countrified bo

he rest were bored tourists torturing as casually as you might order a coff

n at the Glastonbury Festival, if not as clean as Henley. The first surpri

um's outdoor pool, the simple work is as conceptual as it is sculptural. On

early this summer and the train was as disgusting as it had been for yea

provincial museum in 30 years' time, as dull as most 1960s pop looks tod

ies to make the physical environment as exciting as the virtual world. Still,

nd mind. His canvases sit on the wall as implacable as Donald Judd boxes

Thompson's uncluttered staging isn't as impressive as John Dexter's stagg

e says: "My aim is to be as open and as incomprehensible as possible. The

tion of the image. These pictures are as indistinct as her earlier pictures w

arments seem real enough to touch yet so radiant as to be disembodied sources

urged on. The pictures are apparently so casual as to seem hardly worth dwelling

3.5. Lexical indicator of evaluation: Subj + V + ‘SUCH A/ AN’ + (ADJ) + N + that NP
This is a typical pattern expressing evaluation in the art review even though at this point what is most interesting is not only the pattern but the association of this grammar pattern with the words such a/ an; in this case we might or not have an adjective as evaluative category, the importance relies on the grammatical construction which presents the use of the phrase ‘such a/an’ plus either an adjective or a noun and a subordinate that-clause expressing a judgement which becomes the opportunity for describing/ representing the event, which was anticipated in the ‘such a/an’ construction. See Table 9. below for some examples:

Table 9. Concordances of ‘such a/an’ construction (Subj + V + ‘SUCH A/ AN’ + (ADJ) + N + that NP)

1. Storr has done such a beautiful job installing works in the show's airy warehouse space that he's softened any edge they might have.

2. a sitter turns out to be such a chameleon that he changes his look and the social category he belongs to, at will.

3. The work's execution involves such a delicate interplay of white on white carving that your senses, and sensibility, are refined just by looking at it. The

4. A gully in some Third World country is strewn with such a fine array of trash that it looks as though a ticker-tape parade has recently passed by.

5. Most of the projects he's presented have such a firm place in our culture's official "underground" that the world of fine contemporary art has long since adopted them.

6. The results vary from strategy to strategy. Panoramas, for instance, are such a hackneyed photographic device that you have to do something clever to avoid stumbling into cliché.

7. But that doesn't explain the dreary presentation here, or why the Women's Museum has given this show such a halfhearted installation in two remote galleries, with no catalogue -- not even the modest one that was produced and han…

8. the photograph of the shattered Cloth Hall at Ypres is painted in such a lush manner that it becomes less a record of desolation than a landscape of dreamy desire.

9. of a hazy landscape, of boys larking around in rubble, a wave breaking, a man failing to leap across a puddle. Such a masterpiece of composition that man is - his leaping legs and their reflections, beneath a fence and rooftops with the

10. That's why we decided to put Jeff Koons in the new programme: not because his work is beautiful or means anything much, but because it is such an extreme and self-satisfied manifestation of the sanctimony that attaches to big bucks. Koons really does think he's Michelangelo and is not shy to say so.

11. Unfortunately, the picturesque bridge that was painted many times by Griswold lodgers no longer exists. What does exist is a museum offering such an intense evocation of the personality of its former mistress -- and of the artists who lived, worked, and played there -- that it becomes easy to forget that the house is a museum.

12. There is also an Anselm Kiefer in which two toy tanks are attached to the canvas in such a way that we viewers have a bird's- eye view of the visual field.

13. In every gallery the curator Mary Anne Stevens has juxtaposed works of art in such a way that they seem to speak to one another across the centuries.

14. Much worse is to show a succession of framed images along a wall in such a way that Frank appears to be the kind of photographer who showed a single motif in different lights and from different angle

15. PAINTING inhabits such a weird, troubled space right now that it's heartening to discover so many sharp young painters in ''Timeless/Timeliness

Examples 12, 13 and 14 seem to be particularly relevant because it is possible to identify a sub-pattern made up of the fixed phrase ‘in such a way that’ (see also Appendix 1.) which is used to represent verbally what is visually present in the painting or for the description of a particular technique used by the painter/artist or for providing some details on the exhibition.

Moreover it is interesting to notice here that each time that the expression ‘such a/an’ followed by adjective is used, the writer is actually trying to express or stress some sort of firm/strong judgement about curator’s choices or about the show or some artist’s behaviour/artistic choices as if the discussion was reaching at that point its climax, as you can see from Table 10. below:

Table 10. Concordances of ‘such a/an’ as signals of evaluation in texts

1. In the room next door hangs a piece of art by Sam Taylor-Wood which spells out an offensive four-letter word, but such a crude desire to shock seems to have left 39-year-old Hirst. In his drinking days, his language was peppered with

2. though he is represented by a very poor early work here, because many of his best paintings are too damn big for such a crowded exhibition.

3. A traced shadow in the stairwell suggests an imaginary inhabitant, the only kind who could navigate successfully in such a confusing artificial environment.In an adjacent space, Han Sam Son's ''Architecture for Room No.2'' represents geometry

4. In a typically Nicholsonian touch, the photograph of the shattered Cloth Hall at Ypres is painted in such a lush manner that it becomes less a record of desolation than a landscape of dreamy desire. But just to make sure that th

5. windowless corridor off the coatroom at the rear of the building. It is a disappointing, overly casual arrangement for such a weighty aggregate of artwork. Why this choice of space? The viewer gets the feeling that whoever put this exhibition tog

The act of evaluating in these last examples in Table 10. is realized in different grammatical ways; sometimes evaluation is in the NP which becomes the subject of the sentence like in “such a crude desire to shock seems to have” and at other times evaluation lies in the PP (prepositional phrase) like in “in such a confusing artificial environment” and finally also in patterns where the actual phenomenon of evaluation precedes the PP containing the element ‘such a’ like in the last example in Table 9.: “It is a disappointing, overly casual arrangement for such a weighty aggregate of artwork” where indeed evaluation is in the first part of the sentence.

On the whole, it is possible to say that the element ‘such a/an’ can be considered as a signal indicating an evaluation at a certain point in the text, either coming immediately before or immediately after its usage.

3.6. Lexical and adjectival accumulation
There is another typical figure of speech frequently used in art reviews, i.e. the (lexical and adjectival) accumulation which seems to characterize these art reviews strongly. It does not seem to correlate with either a specific positive or negative value in the texts. It rather acts as an intensifier. Its use corresponds to an intention on the part of the reviewer to express a strong judgement and no intention of mitigation when the judgement is negative; on the other hand the effect obtained in case of positive judgements is one of intensification of the positive degree of evaluation of the event.
What is important to highlight is the fact that this is not simply an enumeration of bad or good characteristics about the exhibition, but in all instances there seems to be a crescendo of intensity reached before the end of the sentence. In this sense the accumulation in not chaotic, but coming into a precise order, i.e. what has indeed been defined as a climax in rhetoric (Mortara-Garavelli 2003:184-219); when evaluation is positive and rising we have a climax (Examples 1, 4, etc in Table 11.), on the contrary when it is negative we have an anti-climax (Examples 2, 5, 11, etc, in Table 11.).
Table 11. Concordances of lexical and adjectival accumulations (Thing evaluated + V + ADJ + ADJ +…/ or N +N +…)
1. the designer describes Nutopia as a place where "everything is beautiful, romantic, positive, energetic, intellectual and seamless, with no

2. What the show lacks is focus, direction, and a strong curatorial voice.

3. Romantic art, we are warned, is hysterical, excessive, pompous, even fascistic.

4. I respect the work of Langlands and Bell. It is intelligent, elegant, and always beautifully executed.

5. The best is bad, the worst beneath description. It is leaden, dull, pretentious, coarse, dishonest, desperate and futile.

6. Like the Nasher FCentre, the Menil building is low-lying, modest, ingeniously lit from above - with a roof design by the lat

7. I'm talking about life, which is multilingual, multitasking, polychromatic, enfolding. The fundamentals are th

8. the heads forming a trinity, like Titian's Allegory of Prudence. This is personal, unguarded, and yet oddly serene - perhaps the serenity of a cult me

9. the Tahitian primitivism of his earthenware is personal, revealed, unique.

10. But I like to feel that every aspect of it is provisional, changeable, removable.

11. It is scary, nauseating, a construction in which angels would fear to tread. By the

12. His palette is harsh, powerful, unmodulated and specific, making his work and hers, the perfect

It is interesting however to notice that the sequence of the accumulation in Example 2. (Table 11.) is not bad or negative per se, but it acquires its negativity from the proximity of the verb to lack which deprives the described thing of the qualities listed in the rest of the sentence.

4. Conclusions

The identification of these grammar patterns help us to describe how evaluation is expressed in texts and to understand how the text is built on the autonomous plane, i.e. how the text unfolds. The autonomous plane of discourse allows us to restrict the analysis to the level at which the text express a value without taking into consideration the various processes of negotiation of meaning happening among participants (either real or imagined).

At this level it is possible to analyse the operations adopted by the authors of text in order to express evaluation and it is also possible to see how grammar constructions and fixed phrases can encapsulate evaluation and become signals of evaluation in texts, which might even be of help to the reader in guiding him/her during the process of reading and especially of evaluation of the event (as the Examples in Table 2., 3. and 4., the case of anticipatory it plus the adjective coming before the thing evaluated).
The analysis has lead to the identification of six grammar patterns: Anticipatory IT, Dummy subject THERE, Pseudo-clefts, Analogical patterns, Lexical indicator of evaluation, Lexical and adjectival accumulation. The identification of these patterns will be useful in order to continue the analysis of the art review as a genre. As signals of evaluation in texts, these patterns can help identify different patterns associated with different moves expressing different kinds of evaluation at each stage of the development of the text.

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Appendix 1.
Concordances of ‘in such a way that’ in the art reviews:
1. each covered with black paint as heavy as the darkest night or the deepest depression. After writing that, I checked the title in the catalogue: it is called Dead Weight. There is also an Anselm Kiefer in which two toy tanks are attached to the canvas in such a way that we viewers have a bird's- eye view of the visual field. This turns the painting into a scorched map or battle-scarred landscape inspired by the war in Iraq. The "theme" of this year's summer show is drawing, so the organisers have i

2. y, Michael Hastings' libretto parallels Schwitters' concept of "merz", an art form that attempted to combine all genres to create artistic unity out of the disaster of the first world war: "I pasted words and sentences together," wrote Schwitters, "into poems in such a way that their rhythmic composition created a kind of drawing and I pasted together pictures and drawings containing sentences that demand to be read." The term "merz" is taken from Kommerzbank - although Schwitters also claimed that i

3. le. As such, they have created a body of work in which their locality - London, E1 - becomes universal and articulates the feelings of being in any city on the planet, from Chicago to Beijing. Vitally, Gilbert & George have endlessly refined their art, in such a way that it describes the most intense relationship between the city and mortality. Their new work, The London E1 Pictures, sets the identification of specific "Streets", "Locations", "Haunts" and "Hang-outs" within that particular postcode

4. i- abstraction of the Egyptian head, in both portraits it is the attention to sensuous detail that marks the work out as by a creative artist rather than by a mere craftsman. In every gallery the curator Mary Anne Stevens has juxtaposed works of art in such a way that they seem to speak to one another across the centuries. A life-size figure on an Etruscan sarcophagus, carved in the second century BC, ushers us into the presence of a wealthy nobleman reclining on his banqueting couch. H

5. hen he extended his range to include architecture and became more reliant on the use of studio assistants. That was the right decision, giving us a show that is intense rather than comprehensive. The lighting is excellent, and the pictures are hung in such a way that it is they that guide you through the show, not lengthy wall labels. Finally, the exhibition will live on in the beautifully written and produced catalogue, as balanced and sane as one of Raphael's pictures. This is a once-in-a-lifeti

6. d or tail of so many tiny images framed and hung on a gallery wall? Don't photographers usually place their contacts flat on a table and examine them with a magnifying glass? Much worse is to show a succession of framed images along a wall in such a way that Frank appears to be the kind of photographer who showed a single motif in different lights and from different angles. But Frank is not like Monet or Mondrian: he never worked in series like that. Selection was all-important. Fran

7. a skein of dancing highlights against the wall. When Nicholson paints transparent chunks of ice keeping a wet red mullet fresh, they are more ice-like than the ice any painter ever painted before. Whatever the texture or material, Nicholson paints it in such a way that you want to reach out and touch it. What about that wonderful landscape showing a terrace and balustrade under snow, with a wild, windswept parkland beyond? Or the baroque curves and hollows of mushrooms seen from close


 The analysis of features of evaluation is now finding its way in the area of academic discourse and this is demonstrated by the growing number of conferences and works in this area, as the special issue in JEAP (2003) and the book edited by Del Lungo Camiciotti and Tognini Bonelli (2004) where it is possible to read many contributions to the analysis of evaluation in different academic genres and from different perspectives.

2 Mauranen (2004) summarizes the main points of the round table that took place at the end of the Conference in Pontignano, Siena (14-16 June 2003). Important issues were discussed both about what evaluation is and how it could be approached and found in texts.

3 The larger study is the Ph.D. research project I started in 2004 at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Dept. Of Language and Cultural Sciences, which aims at characterizing the main features of artistic discourse and of the art review as a specific genre.

4 It is useful to give a description of the terminology used by Hunston and Sinclair (2000) in their Local Grammar of Evaluation since they will be used during the analysis. They use the term ‘thing evaluated’ to refer to the object of the analysis or judgement or evaluation in texts, e.g. in the sentence ‘A dog is a damned nuisance’, a dog is the thing evaluated, in other examples “I was certain that he was much to blame”, the thing evaluated corresponds to the clause (that) he was much to blame. As to the ‘evaluative category’ it always corresponds either to the adjective group so in the first example it corresponds to a damned nuisance whereas in the second it corresponds to certain or to the noun group as in this example: “What a nuisance it is”, where the evaluative category corresponds to (what) a nuisance.

5 The question of attribution and averral has been discussed in Tadros (1981) and will not be addressed here. However it is important to notice that the investigation of this specific issue could lead to interesting findings. In particular Tadros states that when a sentence is not averred directly by the author it could only be a signal of an evaluation to follow in the text. Sinclair (2004:58) calls it a ‘stratagem’. This feature will be analysed in the larger study of my Ph.D. project.

6 The next step of the analysis, also an important part of my Ph.D. research project , is to consider what happens to the thing evaluated, i.e. what kind of operation the reviewer is providing an evaluation of through the use these specific adjectives in the different grammar patterns.

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