24 May, 2007

the artist and the artisan

looking for a bit of inspiration, i've been, on and off, flipping through a book called 500 Bowls, to get ideas. the book consists mostly of photographs, with some technical details, as well as the potter's name. a few quotes from potters are scattered throughout. they range from the technical to the amusing (one guy's quote regarding a piece labeled "soup bowl" states it was "inspired by my love of soup". nice! i like the bowl too) through the overly autobiographical and into the absurdly pretentious (such as the quote accompanying a hideous bowl with a dirt brown interior and what looks like a mushroom plunked in the center: "Working with the theme of premature death, this work presents the golden egg of birth, death, and the gift of the near-death experience." er, no. it's just rather ugly).

however, i've noticed something interesting and, likely, telling about me. that is a very strong aversion to the non-functional pieces. very few of them are appealing to me. now, i know that taste is a matter of taste. yet, what i find most unappealing in them is the very lack of functionality. to me, much of the beauty of a ceramic piece, such as a bowl, stems from how well it is suited to performing its function. the lines of the bowl, the curve, the shape; all are more important than how it is glazed, or what sculptural bits have been stuck to it. it is, after all, a bowl; thus is should work like one.

these pieces that i'm turned off by also tend to be made by those who identify, not as potters or ever ceramicists, but as "ceramic artists". this, also, irks me. it harkens back to the old argument between the artist and the artisan. for whatever reason, people still seem to subscribe to the myth that something must be non-functional to be art. furthermore, that pure "art" is somehow of greater value. well, i think that's bullshit. art is not seperate from craft. it is an inherent part of it. it is what drives the craftsman to create works that are beautiful and useful. to remove that element of usefulness is to pull the heart out of the medium. form does not merely follow function. form is born of function. without it, form is twisted, ugly and dead.

i have no desire to be an artist. i do aspire to be an artisan, to be a good craftsman. i'd much rather my work be displayed on someone's table, than in any gallery.

as for the book, despite the minor irksome bits, there are some great bowls in it.

1 comment:

Keifus said...

Hmm, 500 bowls? Oh, it's about pottery.

I kind of get what you mean. The distinction between art and craft is a fuzzy one for one thing (sufficiently elegant craft, and it's art), but even if you must separate the concepts, context-free art is nothing more than bullshit flying. Everyone has imagination. It takes some real skill to communicate it. That takes (at least an acknowledgement of) form.

gkexxf: geek effects