My definition is that Craft is the perfection of technique, and Art is the perfection of ideas. Art has to say something. It is not just craft with a beauty and a function. It comes out of culture and it expresses the culture from which it came in new ways. It shows a different angle on life. Art has expression and it does touch one and it exists, or comes into being after the sifting of ideas. Craft is to do with the skill of the use of the medium without emotion or expression. There is craft in art and vice versa just as there is poetry in music, or drama in music, or movement in painting and sculpture. The cross overs are numerous, but the essence is specific. One can be in awe of both: craft for its perfection of technique and art, in the way it touches us. Art can also be a descriptive term, when craft has gone beyond what most people can do, when it is the pinnacle in its field and is true excellence and it is awesome. One can talk abut craft being a fine art - one has got it down to a fine art - but it is not the same as Fine Art, for it does not have emotion or expression.
I think there are three levels of symbolism in art. There is the personal symbolism that is only really known to yourself. It may be in your dreams; your ways of understanding things. If you are an artist it may be what you express. There is a universal symbolism, that anyone in any time can understand and interpret. That would probably be to do with core words, or facial expressions, for example. Then there is cultural symbolism that most within that culture can understand the meaning, but those outside in place or time, may not.
This small piece in slate is called Grindstone. It symbolises the everyday, the hard grind. It is an acknowledgement of the millions of people who have ever lived - incidentally, half the people who have ever lived are alive now!!!
The everyday is the most sacred. It is where we are. It is why things matter. It is why to pollute water is bad; why to pollute the environment is bad. It is where we learn and find out, make mistakes. The everyday is sacred because it is normal and when we lose the normal we know why it is so special.
Jean Jacques Rousseau in his 'Confessions' says that if he cannot walk, he cannot think. To walk is to think. All artists need to think; to clear the mind of the mundane, the present, the pressing matters. Somehow walking gets one away from the crowding in of thoughts that stifle the creative mind.
According to Herbert Read, writing in 1964 in Studio International, he says that the first Principle of six, in the Chinese philosophy of art, is to do with a unifying, spiritual energy, flowing through all things, uniting them in harmony. He says that it seems that the first canon of painting is fundamentally metaphysical.
How do we interpret this? Do we think about it as a perfection of everything involved in a painting? The idea, the method, the interpretation? The oneness of the artist with her culture?
The second principle is interpreted as 'the bone' of the work. Herbert Read says this is to do with the structural strength of the brushstroke, the 'skeleton' of the work. My feeling is that it is to do with the skill of the artist being at one with the artist. It is unity and therefore strength given thereby. It has to do with fluency and the well practised becoming instinctive.
The third principle is to do with appropriate form. 'A correspondence between subject and form'. I think, idea and form. Again, they are one, united, perfect unity.
The fourth principle is about colour. I guess, the right colour. Again a total appropriateness to the subject and the feel to be given.
The fifth principle is about composition - everything in its place and a place for everything. This might include perspective. It includes giving importance to the subject matter in where it is in relation to other elements. It is good composition, which is in the trained and experienced eye of the practitioner.
The sixth principle is about 'copying'. I wonder if this means, not copying nature, or copying a face but more to do with interpretation, with all the previous elements in their perfect state; ' copying' the influences that went into the inspiration in the first place; a 'picking up' by the artist of the elements in the culture that flow through the artist's hands to have a perfect expression outwards, of what went inwards.
I was talking to a young man from a far Eastern culture the other day and he asked what I did. I replied that I am a sculptor and immediately his manner totally changed. By anyone in our culture, I have never been treated like this. I was speechless and utterly humbled. He said 'Oh gosh! It is an honour to be in the presence of a real artist'. This brought back feelings of my early ambition. It felt, then, like an honour and a privilege, and a responsibility, when I was young and setting off on my grand journey. Since then, the reality of the day to day; the links of art and leisure; the continual need to justify oneself when talking to acquaintances; makes the early ambition pale into a disappearing shade. Where would society be without art? It is our humanity. What is culture? Look at what we have produced in this country by way of art, literature, music,poetry, dance, sport, science, engineering. These are all creative and require ideas, development, skill, time and public support. The whole world has contributed. Our creativity abounds.