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We’ve not only taken the craft out of art. We’ve taken the craft out of craft!
‘Every artist is a craftsman, but not every craftsman is an artist’ was the credo we used to live by when I served my apprenticeship, back in the dark days of Magic Markers and Layout Pads. And it’s an observation you’ll know to be true if you’ve ever asked a house painter to advise you on interior décor, or asked a jobbing builder to help design your home extension.
An artist, by contrast, should have an eye as sure as his hand, or so it used to be thought. So it was with some satisfaction that I read David Hockney in the press this week lambasting Damien Hurst over the production (by hired hands) of his infamous dot paintings.
Now David Hockney is a bit of an old curmudgeon, and not above cutting a few corners himself (I remember him advising DipAD students to forge their own pass certificates), but I’m in whole hearted agreement with him on this one. The medium is the message, and if you can’t work in it, what have you got? Even Jackson Pollock, bless him, used to throw his own pots of paint at the canvas.
Of course, the whole business of the Fine Arts has become so intellectually rarefied it’s lost touch with reality, let alone aesthetics. But surely it’s different in the Applied Arts? Surely it’s reasonable to expect that art directors and graphic designers should know one end of a pencil from another, if only when scamping out story boards or sketching draft logo designs?
Alas, it would seem not. Graphic designer David Eatock, whose work currently features in the Graphic Design: Now in Production show at the Walker Art Gallery, even makes a virtue of his inability to draw, or as he explains it “I wanted to make a mark without the subjectivity of drawing a pen across paper”.
Well, he may not be much of an artist, but he gets top marks for obfuscatory double talk, which seems to be the main qualification for our profession nowadays.
What he does is to uncap and upend a number of felt tip markers on a table, lay a sheet of paper over them and allow the ink to bleed through it. The end result looks very like – yes, you’ve guessed it – a Damien Hurst dot painting. The clever bit is the process is all but automatic and done without any labour at all – eat your heart out Damien!
The sad bit though, is that it’s not only taken the craft out of art: it’s taken the craft out of craft. Any advance on that guys?