Sunday, 7 April 2013

Craft and Creativity

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!

28 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more Gina!
    I remember when my son and daughter were doing their A level art all the pieces had to be accompanied with some written text explaining the deeper meaning of the artwork and how they had come about producing it. It always made me smile because they did the artwork and then made up the rest!!
    We all should make beautiful things which make us happy.
    Who wants to eat toffee dipped Barbies anyway, I'd rather have a lemon macaroon! ;)
    V xxx

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  2. I love the use of colour on the black and white. It shows that you are enjoying it.

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  3. I'm totally with you Gina, our lives and the way we choose to live them is surely the 'Art'. I never regard the finished product as my goal, it's when I am deep in the middle of process, that is art for me,a kind of performance art with me as the audience.Like yourself i try to apply this to everything I do, baking, decorating, gardening, family raising, being a wife,mother,friend, the art is in the doing of all these things with integrity and as creatively as possible.We all ponder these things from time to time but deep down we need to trust ourselves when we question this creative journey we are all on.You were damned right about the MA. Serious stuff for a Sunday evening!

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  4. All good, normal service resumed then. In less than two weeks!

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  5. I SO agree. While I want to be in with the grown ups I don't want to produce stuff I have to explain. I just want to make something beautiful, inviting, and tactile. Decorative art if thats what it is..not fine art if fine art has to be conceptual.
    Well said.
    And well baked.

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  6. I am also in total agreement. Having had no proper formal art 'training' I often feel my work is inferior or at least shallow, as it is what it is and nothing more. Beautifully said, baked and stitched Gina.

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  7. ina you have put it so well. I have felt like doing a fine art degree for a long time but the more I see of coursework the more I am surprised by what fine art means these days. It seems conceptual to me. I'd like to go and learn skills and good use of materials and work on drawing. Perhaps I should have lived in Leonardo Da Vincii's day?
    Do you think that one day the art degree world will do a complete turnaround and go back to basics and skill honing?

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  8. Well said Gina. I wish more people would have the confidence to say it. I think we need comments cards next to many conceptual art pieces that are then returned to the artist. They can then can see what many visitors think of their handiwork and perhaps think more about the craft of what they are making.

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  9. Art education in the UK has gone seriously awry. I was shocked the first (and only) time we attended a degree exhibition at the Royal College of Art--so much concept, so little skill. What use is a fabulous concept if you don't have the skills to execute it? K x

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  10. Well said Gina. Whenever I view a work of art I make my own mind up weather I like/dislike it. I don't always need to know the deeper meaning behind it. As for Frida I watched an interesting documentary on sky arts recently
    http://skyarts.sky.com/at-frida-kahlos
    Don't know if you have already seen it?

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  11. I am in total agreement Gina and just can't go along with the conceptual thing at all. I have heard several ex-degree students say that they felt as if they were being channelled down paths they didn't want to take.
    I have given up struggling for perfection but still strive for an acceptable level of skill. I think the maxim 'Be true to yourself' is the one to remember.

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  12. Very deep indeed! But an interesting post. And all of your creations this week are just gorgeous -- especially that embroidery that you're working on - amazing!

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  13. Gina, deep is good. It is thought provoking and all good stuff. Am I sensing you are turning a corner and finding your mojo again?

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  14. Oh well said Gina! I, too, am happy to make "pretty things" and "delicious things" but have struggled with it not being Art, or have a "message" - and what sort of message is "here is a pretty thing" - and therefore the things I do are not worthy of note, or to be taken seriously. But I'm beginning to think, and you've confirmed it, that the world needs beautiful things crafted with care and honesty. And I'm sure your family would agree that a world without all those beautiful cakes would be a very dull place indeed!

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  15. I'll add my cheers to everyone else's comments Gina. I feel guilty sometimes for not understanding some art as if I'm not bright enough on some level. My conclusion is that we're all different and that you can't please everyone and as long as I enjoy what I create and get a buzz out of the creative process and mostly like what I produce, I can't ask for much more. I bet that ganache didn't last very long and I love the vibrant stitching you've done with those flowers.

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  16. As long as you enjoy what you do... do it to the best of your ability,inspire others to create.... and boy you certainly do that Gina
    no Art B...S... needed. Do what you believe in. Nuff said.

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  17. I so agree with you - especially as your cakes and baking is so much better than any conceptual art!! Not only is there pleasure in the making, there is pleasure in looking at these lovely creations and I bet more than anything there is great pleasure in tasting them too!! Brilliant - keep doing what you enjoy

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  18. "toffee dipped Barbie dolls" Snort!
    I had to laugh! You do so many things and you do them very well, you can be satisfied that you achieve a great deal.

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  19. You heathen Gina - as you know I'm always partial to a load of artistic b..........s!
    Oh, and please can I come and have baking lessons with you?

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  20. I really agreed with your sentiments on art today. And the cakes looked gorgeous!

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  21. A very hearty hear hear, Gina. Do keep making beautiful things - I think it's what most of us like to look at, though there is a certain level of anti-snob satisfaction to be gained from public exhibits that allow you to say "What on earth is *that* all about?!" :-)

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  22. Well said Gina. I do what I do because I like it or want to learn a technique. I know that's a very simplistic opinion but that's enough meaning for me.
    Your baking is fabulous. If Gill is having cookery lessons can I come too please? The macaroons are just perfect.

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  23. Gina, I very much enjoyed reading this post. You express yourself very well. Something I have always liked about any sort of creativity is that I can do what pleases me, and explore what I wish to explore.

    Art history describes various historic trends from all the world's cultures. Some trends are short, some are long, some are governmentally sanctioned, some are mysterious, etc. I've always just loved the freedom to create!

    xo

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  24. A fantastic post that really hit home. And I'm afraid I often nowadays become quite angry trying to read artists statements too. It should all be heART work.

    As for the baking, will you be my mummy??? *sigh*

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  25. so glad you have at last found some peace with what you achieve - your work is lovely - you enjoy doing it- you share with others through your blog and teaching - go for it Gina - by the way this is all too obvious about the conceptual stuff when you go to fine art and textile shows at MMU in the summer - sometimes I just stand and shudder in the enbroidery exhibitions and MMU is a top course!!!!!

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  26. Spot on Gina! Love the look of your Frida work.

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  27. A very interesting topic - perhaps we could discuss it one day over a cup of coffee or glass of wine!

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