Monday, May 5, 2008

Art/Craft Discussion Alert

This time it's at Constance Rose Textile Design.

In Japan, many involved in craft are women, particularly in textile, (although respected masters covered by the press are usually menfolk), so I don't feel as strongly that men's work is priced higher there necessarily, and in some ways craft is respected more than fine art because it has to satisfy the utilitarian requirements and technical excellence first, before even thinking about looking at the aesthetic merits.

Which makes me think of the term "decorative" art as used by museum to distinguish themselves from fine art institutions. Notice how decorative art museums are, well, kind of quirky and in-between art and historical museums, with the notable exception of V&A? Or maybe I'm too ignorant and not well-traveled enough; I'd love to hear about other "beautiful things you can use" museums which command a modicum of respect by the general society. Paintings and sculptures appear more "decorative" than weaving/garments, furnitures, etc., etc., etc, in my estimation, because "fine" art don't do anything, but what do I know...

In New Zealand craft is very much the underclass of art practices, though some people have successfully elevated their craft into art in the societal perception; ceramics (the kind you can't use) and more recently jewelry, with jewelers calling themselves sculptors. Within weaving, of course tapestry (picture/decorative) weaving is higher art than fabric art, and many weavers are women and there is a very blurry line between an armature and a professional. And there are no "serious weaving school", whatever it may mean, in the country, to my knowledge. So we are at the bottom of the rung.

I totally agree with Constance. In in the West, there is the strong association between the value of the artist and the price their work fetch. At least in Japan, in craft, there is a sliver of hope the government might make you a living human treasure, though you stand a better chance if you're well over 70 and male.

And then, there's the problem of critics, isn't there? Who's going to decide we've done well? And perhaps we're even lucky in this area because fabric weaving is seldom taken seriously as a art form so we don't get scrutinized as viciously as, say, painters or installation artist? Oppps, I've gone too far; don't get me started in installation art!

I wish we got some kind of a magic "letter" for the intrinsic/existential value of the work we do and the pieces we make, so we can all walk around with, say, a golden W on our shirts, but even for that I need to invest a few more tons of elbow grease. Besides, if there were such magic letters, nurses, for starters, will get all the gold threads, I reckon.

Trust me, I'm not grumpy this morning, in case you couldn't tell...

2 comments:

  1. Ahhhh "decorative" arts. It's akin to that one weft thread thrown out of sequence. It becomes all we see in the piece of cloth. The line between fine art and craft, perfection and hobby, or master aprentice.

    I wish more people could have seen Pricked show in NYC. Traditional embrodiery skills tweaked enough to be classiifed as art.

    Then again I am musing the idea that only we ourselves battle the lable. Just rise up and make it, Art that is.

    And I'm gonna do just that....after I find a bucket to place under the roof leak. Thank goodness the garden is getting a drink this morning!

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  2. Over the weekend, I was watching a very old doco of two brothers in Japan. The older brother was 102 at the time, the younger 99, and they both grew up in a Yuzen master's house. The brother grew up to be more or less a producer/director of Yuzen obis; he has an army of artisans working for him, and he gives directions and designers design and weavers weave, but it carries his brand. Sometimes the original ideas aren't even his.

    The younger brother designs and weaves No play costumes; I'm not sure about the warping but he does the whole thing on his centuries-old loom.

    Both brothers, and their works, are considered works of art, as I believe they should be. At that level it didn't even matter if they were objet d'art or decorative art, I guess, but they were most definitely serious art. And it was nice to watch a doco made in Japan, about Japanese crafts because it assumed that everybody watching the doco agreed that they were art/artists.

    I forgot where I was going with this now, Lynne...

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