Monday, October 5, 2015

Art or Craft

My take on the issue of  'is it art or craft?' that it is not up to the human doing whatever activity to say whether it is art or not.  Rather, it is the medium that tells you whether or not it is an art or a craft.  Yes, it does become entwined with value at different levels.  But generally, with some sensitivity and exploration and contemplation on the nature of the medium you are putting your attention on, you will begin to know whether  or not it is an art or a craft.
To my way of thinking and feeling an art has this possibility to express the intuitive, psychological nuance of human consciousness at depths and heights that craft alone is not privileged to express.  Often the medium itself rises to that occasion of its own accord if the practitioner simply surrenders a bit and doesn't try to dominate the medium with their technical and conceptual prowess.  Delacroix noted this phenomenon in his own work.  This certainly is not to say that craft is not exquisite and exquisitely beautiful, but rather it is to say that a craft has a personality that of its very nature tends to dominate the process of creation to the degree that these more  intuitive  expressions are not available.
Bottom line is every medium from sweeping the floor to plumbing to ballet has a personality.  It is the personality of the medium that finally tells you whether it is art or craft.  So if you have this psychological need to be an artist, it helps to be practicing an art.  You can always take joy in what you do and do that with concentration and consciousness.
Anyway, I do art which is painting and drawing.  Of course it seems that every art practiced has an element of craft associated with it, like you have to learn a set of techniques in order to progress.  I was fortunate in that my teacher, Antonio Salemme 1892-1995, never taught me technique.  We certainly looked and enjoyed a great deal of art and this before I even had the desire to do art. When I began to draw he never told me how to.  He always stressed the importance of observation, and  in his critiques he would point out the beauty of the medium to me and where I had expressed myself most directly in terms of the medium.  I could see the very real beauty of the medium and that became my guiding principle. These are my words for that process.  He never said any of this to me.  But from that experience I came up with this:  "If one is committed to the joy of self expression, technique will purify itself over time.  Right guidance is helpful."
So, technique and craft and art are related, but more important and of the essence is the joy you take in what it is you do.
copyright(c)william deraymond 2014

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