Saturday, 7 June 2014

Art Vs Craft

Today I went to get a new passport from the office in Liverpool. By happy coincidence this afforded me a few hours in the Tate to view the new exhibition of work by Mondrian, called Mondrian and his studios
It's a great exhibition particularly because it has a life size replica of his studio in Paris. Walking around his studio I think really gives you an insight into the Man and his art that you would not otherwise get. Go see it. 

I also had chance to look around the rest of the Tate. Some work I liked and some I did not but all of the work made me think. And as the mark of a good exhibition I'm still thinking about it. With the Tate more than any other gallery I have been to, I'm left with the question of: What is Art?

For me (ignorant in the field of art) I consider some things art and some not. Its a gut feeling that in hindsight I find difficult to rationalize. When I studied at the Birmingham school of jewellery, my tutor said "You need to decide whether you are an artist or a craftsman. If your an artist then you make one of something, and to make a living you need patronage. If your a craftsman then you make a run of your designs and you start to make a little money". Interestingly the definition in France is very similar. Art is: "one of something and each piece unique" craft is: "more than one the same". For me though there is something more important than uniqueness and that is the element of skill. I struggle to find the "Art" in a nicely folded pile of linen. I also struggle to find the "worth" in social comment on Art that involves tattooing the backs of drug addicted prostitutes with a 160cm line for the price of a shot of heroin?? Sorry.

So what of Mondrian? If you look at his paintings (the later ones we recognize anyway) and we have a series of paintings that are in-fact substantially the same, or at least perfections of a theme. Their creation is not terribly difficult. But do I think its Art?.....well yes. And why? Because what Mondrian did was unique (back to the definition above). Any child / adult who has any interest in Art will recognize his work. And for me that is supremely difficult and requires absolute skill. After several thousands of years of painting, to produce a style that is so distinctive and so unique is truly remarkable.

For myself I have for a long time been content with being a lowly craftsman. 

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