In conversation with my sister in law - an ambitious academic - I revealed that I think at some point a fundamental shift will occur from emphasis put on ideas back onto emphasis on craftsmanship, like a new Aesthetic Movement. It seems logical to me that the end is nigh on the highly conceptual – there appears to be little a concept left to explore. On the other end, there are always a few whose academic approach to art and conscientiousness, motivates them to achieve a widely agreed level of craftsmanship quality which distinguishes it art. However at this stage, in this exhibition, these few are greatly outnumbered; so I don’t perceive this coming soon!
Not altogether a paradox, currently many students are deeply influenced by the ways of the past – not in style or method, like the afore mentioned traditionalists, but by the facts and objects of a society of the past, and the appeal these have as ‘old’ objects – as rotting, decaying, time capsules which are unmoved, found, remnants; passageways to people from before; to explore the concept of memory. This often involves ‘leaving’ objects in a suitcase; framing new works in vintage frames; or scattering objects across a worn down table. Looking for quaint objects, usually wooden, and dated floral prints or photographs with an antique fade, will help you identity this fad, which is usually in the form of instillations. I can see why it’s become an attractive concept – it’s nostalgic, invites elements of mystery, and has the potential to involve a strong narrative. It is intriguing because it is about absence. Absence of that time itself, of the person alluded to within it, but also – and here is where the last two styles differ – of the artist. The anonymous artist appears again. The opposition between these styles is that these students don’t want to appear to have made ‘their’ things. And so a return to craftsmanship focus in art really would be radical.
The third shares this lack of artist identity, but appears from the outside quite different. It is very unmade, and it prides itself on this openness and unsubtly. It takes its space, and demands attention. Comprising of found objects - often furniture - that form instillations, or sculptures. It lacks the quaintness of the genre before and is generally more robust, less detailed, and more matter of fact. It is even less crafted. Sometimes barely touched by the artist, often only composed by him/her in order to create a new meaning out of these pieces. The artists create ideas, not things – truly modern. It was unkindly graffitied on our wall, ‘Fine Art is for people who can’t paint’…or as it could [optimistically] rebutted: ‘Fine Art is for people who choose not to paint, so this cannot be proven.’
Out of the odd few who do in fact use their hands to mark on a flat material (paper, card, newspaper, canvas, panel etc) with some kind of rectangular implement (pencil, pen, chalk, pastel, paint, graphite etc); their style could be broadly categorised within Abstraction or Expressionism. Pieces are usually not recognisable within a genre (: landscape, portrait, still life, religious/historic and genre painting) and often multi-media. Modern again in purpose – the significance is put in the concept or emotion.
Art school education is a lot more DIY in the way it is learnt: you teach yourself; you learn [consciously, or directly] nothing; and less DIY in the work that is produced. The question is perhaps does this provide more, or less freedom for artists to develop and work within their unique style…?