18 December 2016

Conceptual craft?

Andrea Walsh's "Contained Boxes" have won the 2016 Craft Scotland prize. Simple and beautiful, inviting touch and satisfying the eye.

Based in Edinburgh, she uses a range of materials including ceramics, glass, and metal to create elegantly crafted and timeless pieces, of which an independent curator has said:
“Walsh’s work seems the antithesis of the fleeting surfaces of contemporary life and yet the forms are free of the pastiche or anachronism of the self-consciously crafted thing. They possess instead what the American art historian Keith Moxey describes as a vital heterochronicity – a capacity to unfold many time worlds simultaneously through the precision and poetry of the forms.” 
My gripe, on reading and re-reading this, extracting what I thought might be its meaning, was with the small words. "Yet" - ?? "Or" - ?? How do they contribute to the sense of the sentence, or do they contribute to confusion about what might be being said? The longest word, heterochronicity, is explained (thank goodness).

So with the (possibly) oxymoronic title of this post, I'm thinking back to how the idea of conceptual art can be off-putting to people, because the artist is focussed on the idea behind the work and the viewer doesn't know enough about ... something vital ... the context, the idea, the artist; some sort of help is needed for the viewer to stay interested, to get anything out of "it".

Craft, you might argue, is about touchable objects, touch being a route to pleasure, whereas art is Hands Off and solely perceived through eye and brain. So through being able to hold or stroke the object you can overcome the off-puttingness of an important concept that can lie behind the object - and isn't a "contained box" quite a concept? - is the box inside or outside, or both ... container or object, or both ...

So for all our understanding of boxes in every day life, these remain puzzling objects - which is good, they have mystery about them ... can you say that about the famous Carl Andre bricks? I was glad to read a little about the artist's background (masters degree in glass; exploration of box and vessel form), but then, in the explanatory text, the use of words like antithesis, pastiche, anachronism - what a word soup! - got in the way again. Precision and poetry of the forms, yes, that makes sense - these boxes are beautiful, thoughtful objects, pared down to a conjunction of vital elements. We can see that.

Addendum - artspeak
When it comes to artspeak, horrendous examples abound. I found this particularly disturbing ... and am trying to discover why; is it the words/phrases, or is it what's being described? -

Plessen pushes beyond the traditional parameters of representation, employing multiple perspectives to suggest the free circulation of objects, not dictated by compositional rules or gravity. During the painting process, canvases are sometimes rotated 90 degrees, serving to disrupt the artist’s relationship with the image, thereby allowing access to what he has described as ‘a layer beyond that of coherent figuration or narration without having to cut out representations altogether’.

1 comment:

Olga Norris said...

First, I agree about artspeak. It is a deliberate puffing up of the critic rather than the artist or the art; a putting down of the poor ignorant reader. Rather like the ludicrous Malvolio, however, they oft fall foul of their yellow cross-gartered constructs. (!)
Critics should make it their business to illuminate, not obfuscate.

Second, thank you for introducing me to Magnus Plessen's work which I looked up on reading your post. I went to the White Cube's page on him and love his paintings. He seems to have done to figurative art what Peter Lanyon did to landscape: a kind of multi-faceted collaging of views of parts which make an intriguing and lovely whole. I must find out more.