13 November 2017

The art vs design question

A book borrowed from the library which I've been looking at over breakfast has got me thinking about the difference between the world of Design and Art. It's the work of Mark Hearld, which is a bit of both - he started as a printmaker and using collage, and has built on his success by painting on ceramics, designing tote bags for the Tate, wallpaper, etc etc. You've probably come across his work somewhere, somehow.
Mind map of sources and influences

The section called "The artist as designer" (text by Simon Martin) starts by talking about the strong graphic quality and feeling for composition and abstract pattern making in Hearld's work. Hearld says: "As well as just making pictures to go on a wall, I enjoy making and designing objects. The artists I most admire, such as John Piper and Edward Bawden, were also designers. It's about enjoying the visual quality of the objects that surround you. That's really the impetus behind everything I make. Also, there is something lovely about designing an object that people can afford to buy. They might not want to purchase a big painting but they can buy just a cushion. To design something that's functional and domestic really appeals to me because I like creating a home. I like creating a wonderful space."
Later, in regard to his first (complicated!) wallpaper design, he writes: "I had long been interested in surface pattern and textile design, but, as an artist, felt it was somebody else's world."

... which leads me to wonder how separate the Art and Design worlds are seen to be - especially by those making a living from either, or both. 

Seems to me that Fine Art is the world of big paintings at big prices with big cuts taken by dealers (who distance the artist from the owner of the work?) - a million miles away from Just a Cushion and its processes of commissioning, making, outlets, status. 
Just a few of the miniprints at Morley College
Seeing art shows - eg the miniprint exhibition at Morley - or the RA Summer Show - you encounter the work of literally hundreds of People Who Make Art, and I do wonder, why do it... is there room for more in this already overstuffed world. (Why am I bothering? is another question...)

After mulling on things like this I looked at the book some more and read "It's satisfying to get the most out of each creative idea" and maybe that's another way Art and Design differ ... how far the idea can be stretched, and the recognition that at some point it's become a different idea - or that it's run out, and you have to switch to something different. I have only a vague feeling about this ... which so far boils down to: Design = finish a set project, whereas Art= see where a visual idea leads - ? 

And then there are the Two Big Questions about making Art: 1. who is your audience. 2. what is your intent. 

What are the Two Big Questions in design? Maybe ... 1. who will pay for it. 2. how can it be used.

Oof, it makes the brain hurt. Let's relax and look at a little more of Mark Hearld's work (or have a look at this short film - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byG6w2qaWnw) -

mm, those corrugated buildings!
 This page spread put me in mind of a "folk art object" seen recently in a local charity shop.
I regret not buying it, but did take a photo; might have to make my own, maybe even out of painted metal, some day -


patty a. said...

This is a deep subject! I say do what makes you happy and call it a day! LOL!!!

Living to work - working to live said...

Love this book. I'm very pleased to say I have my own copy - and I need to dip into it again.

And oh dear, the whole art v craft debate can get muddied with the art v design debate.

Art and craft - I'm clear in my own mind on this one ( and principally, for me at least, that's about the level of intellect that goes into the work). As far as art v design I think Hearld, and indeed all those artists in the St Judes stable, follow in the very fine footsteps of earlier 20th century artists such as Ravilious or the Bloomsbury group. I think for me it's not so much about product design as finding another vehicle to carry the art.

Lovely post. Thank you.