Artist or Artisan

I remember back in the eighties a debate around what was art and what was craft. Potters, Textilers, Glassblowers all wanting to be defined as artist rather than craftsperson. I guess they were feeling a bit insecure that their work was devalued by a craft definition. However shouldn’t all artists have a relationship to the practicalities and processes of the materials they are working with? Display some element of craft? And craftspeople display artistry in their work? David Hockney is interesting on this subject and came in for some stick over a crack relating to the YBA’s (Now not so young eh?) Hockney’s art school background is from a time where techniques and processes were taught before concepts. I once heard him in an interview speak about being taught bookbinding. Instinctively I feel that all practitioners in any given art form should, at some point, put their greasy thumbprint on the material itself, know something about its history its techniques and the artists who have travelled the road before. There is often a great deal of craft involved in making successful outdoor work, the really great shows often utilise this craft to exploit the possibilities that are unique to the great outdoors. The French have a neat way of describing the difference they define work as théâtre dans la rue (On the street) or  théâtre de la rue (Of the street). I’m off to SIRF this weekend to try to see some of the latter.

Photo Les Hommes en Noir