We were back in London at the V & A again on Friday to see a screening of Alan Yentob's 1974 film Cracked Actor (Which ironically had been shown the previous night on BBC 1 on Imagine... so you can still catch it on i Player should you wish), followed by a question and answer session with Alan Yentob. It was an excellent eveing and we also managed to whizz around the Bowie exhibition again which was a bonus. It raised lots of questions about creativity and art among other things.
Mercury Rising Four panel lacquered teak screen with white gold detail, Sophie Coryndon
Which was interesting because before heading to the V & A we had popped in to Somerset House where for just three days there was an exhibition about craftsmanship, Crafted, featuring a variety of crafts of the most amazing standard ranging from watch making to knitting and glass blowing to silver smithing. I spoke for a while to the incredibly talented Sophie Coryndon who was working on gilded inlays on lacquered wood. I asked where she had learned such skills and her answer really resonated with me. She said she had been to Art college where she felt she had learned nothing of use. She said it was all far too conceptual and this was confirmed for her when a fellow student, for her final year degree show, had dipped the heads of Barbie dolls into toffee sauce. Despite this, Sophie finished her degree but then went on to learn the skills that she now employs through apprenticeships.
I know I made the right decision when I decided not to continue my Master of Art degree and one of the reasons I didn't want to continue (there were others) was that I found it too conceptual. As I listened to other students explain why they were doing what they were doing I felt like I was in a scene from the Emperor's New Clothes. I felt as though I didn't belong. I'm sure it meant something to the individuals involved, and I don't mean to put that down, but it really was not for me.
I've nothing against concepts or meanings in art and have produced my own work that has meaning beyond the purely visual, but for me art still has to be something beautiful. Not a very fashionable idea I know!
That beauty does not have to be a "pretty" type of beauty but rather an attraction that makes someone want to look or listen or find out more. And it has to be well crafted with skill.
Ridiculous I know, but since leaving the MA I have struggled to find concepts and meaning in my own work, believing that without something deep and meaningful behind what I'm doing that it is just a waste of time. How very silly of me given that was the very reason I gave it up!
Suddenly like a light coming on I realise that none of that matters. As long as what I do is done with integrity and done well... that is what is really important.
And I think that applies whether one is writing and performing some of the most iconic songs of the twentieth century, creating beautiful lacquered screens, baking cakes and desserts for friends, knitting garments, painting pictures, making sculpture etc.... or even dabbling with a bit of embroidery. Unfortunately I can't quite apply this thinking to toffee dipped Barbie dolls!
This weekend I have created a gluten free chocolate cake decorated with chocolate ganache and chocolate ribbons, baked a ginger and lime pie... and several individual sized versions, made a batch of lemon macaroons and have continued to play with ideas inspired by Frida.
And instead of feeling frustrated and disatisfied with my weekend's achievements which seems to have become the norm over recent months... it just feels good. I just want to make beautiful things!
Well, that was all a bit deep for a Sunday evening... I'll be back with some frivolity next week! Far more me!