The Linguist

The Linguist 54,4

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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6 The Linguist Vol/54 No/4 2015 FEATURES The challenges of translating for galleries and keeping up with developments in the art world. By Karine Leroux W hile most people enjoy visiting an art exhibition from time to time, art may not be every translator's choice. For an art lover, however, specialising in this field is an ideal way of indulging in what you love and keeping up with what is happening in the art world. The work ranges from fairly approachable texts (e.g. marketing brochures and websites) to stylistically elaborate, rich yet concise press releases, where the text may be as conceptual as the works it refers to, and in-depth technical reviews (e.g. a detailed description of an artist's work, typically from a monograph or for an article in a specialised magazine). A generalist translator working on an art text may easily perceive some specialist terms to be non-specific and translate them literally. For instance, the genre portrait de groupe informel in French (lit. 'informal group portrait') is 'conversation piece' in English, although the English term is also used in French. Another aspect to be aware of when translating texts on pre-20th-century art in particular, is Old Masters' names. The Flemish painter known as Anthony van Dyck in English (sometimes spelt Vandyke) becomes Antoine (or Antoon) van Dyck in French, Antoon Van Dijck in Dutch and Antonie (or Anton or Anthonie) van Dyck in Flemish (see the Encyclopædia Britannica, and Larousse, So it is imperative to check the correct spelling in the target language and to be consistent with the choice of spelling. Like any specialised field, art terminology has its own difficulties. It is important to understand the subtle differences between very similar techniques in order to determine which term to use. Not all terms have an exact equivalent in the other language. For instance, the word 'print' can be problematic because it refers to so many different techniques (photography, lithography, engraving) and there is no such generic equivalent in French (my other working language). This is when researching the artwork is vital. At the beginning of the year, I was commissioned to translate the wall texts and labels of a large exhibition. While the wall texts were fairly straightforward, the labels, with their very limited information, were sometimes tricky. It was fortunate that the majority of the works came from the National Portrait Gallery, which has a freely accessible online database of its collections, including a picture of almost all of the artworks. This proved an invaluable starting point. If pictures or further details are not available, researching the artist will usually help to determine what technique(s) they tend to use. Checking the year of the artwork is also imperative, as artists typically use certain techniques for a period of time, then move on to experiment with new ones, occasionally returning to old ones later on. Another challenging aspect of the art lexicon is that it keeps expanding – and fast. Artists are constantly exploring new techniques, pushing the limits of their Illuminating art

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