Home > Design, Exhibition > Crafting the art, craft divide

Crafting the art, craft divide

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This weekend Sebastian Smee reviews Transformations: the Language of Craft and Gwyn Hanssen Pigott: a Survey 1955-2005

The problem for Smee seems not so much in the definition of whether it is art but rather whether these exhibitions are afforded sufficient space for contemplation in an arena where art is to be investigated, digested and understood. He does not pontificate on whether they constitute art or not however he does contribute to the art / craft divide and takes objection to the fact that the works are

………grounded in principles that are as much social as artistic, and that they are to a large extent exercises in highly refined taste.

and demonstrates that

One reason people often feel reluctant to consider craft on the same level as painting and sculpture is that necklaces, glassware, vases and furniture, though they may be useful and beautiful in all sorts of surprising ways, have long been considered expressions of taste.

accordingly expressions of good taste are, and lead to conformity

…….taste is associated with conformity and predictability, whereas art should be surprising. If something is widely considered tasteful, it has arrived at a point where nobody can pick a fight with it.

Taste is really an extension of manners, and as we all know, manners tend to get in the way of true feeling. Good taste, like good manners, makes us feel comfortable – it is soothing – whereas great art almost always makes us uncomfortable. Why? Because it derives its force from the upheavals of true feeling.

I do tend to agree with Smee on this point however this now throws a shadow on the work of designers…are they the purveyors of ‘good taste’ determining what we live with, determining which of us have taste and which of us do not. If so are the ones with less taste closer to the cutting edge or perhaps this argument doesn’t stick to the skin of the designer and should be completely ignored?

I think not – I think the most interesting designers do test the boundaries and question what has come before.

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Categories: Design, Exhibition
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