Grayson Perry discusses craft and art

Grayson Perry discusses craft and art


Grayson Perry discusses art and craft I am unsettled by the work that sits between
art and craft because I think craft and tradition are very firmly linked and that must not be
denied. That is one of the great things about it, and craft, by definition, is something
that can be taught to someone else, you know, you can teach someone how to throw a pot and
they will become as good at it as you if they’ve got the necessary. Whereas art is very much
linked to the individual and their vision and it’s not necessarily something that
can be taught or passed down. You can be derivative and take up parts of someone’s vision but
you can’t become that person. I think that therein lies the rub, that craft, in its very
essence, the minute you invoke it…you’re saying, is this art or is it social work?
You know, is it art or is it fashion? It’s like there’s a tension in that their values
by their very nature are pulling apart from each other. And for me, you could say now
that painting has practically become a craft, it’s on the way to becoming a craft. I think
that post-Duchamp, it’s so old this argument…because anything goes is a really old idea now, and
since Duchamp the notion that you can teach craft as part of art. You can teach the philosophy
of craft, once you’ve set what you’re going to do – whether it’s piling up bits
of plastic or doing a poo or making a video – is what you’re doing for your art,
then do it really well. But I think when we talk of craft we talk of a certain set of
processes, whether that be clay or glass or jewellery or textiles and we look back through
history instantly. It’s quite interesting when things start to become kind of less relevant
in the modern world, that’s when they start becoming kind of nostalgia-ised. Like, say,
old-fashioned photography is now very rapidly becoming a craft because with the plate and
developing and all that sort of thing. And it will be fetishised by a group of mainly
men probably who’ll kind of like become all train spottery about old techniques of
daguerreotype and, oh yes, this is Kodak film and you can’t get this anymore.
The big challenge to visual culture is probably digital and I think that craft will grow up
within that. But what I think is tricky about the digital revolution is that it’s intangible.
It’s the fact that whatever you do with a computer you only ever interact with the
computer as a go-between, between you and the finished thing. I’ve done works which
are digitised and there is something very different in the relationship to the finished
product. It’s not a kind of organic relationship of mutual impact that you might have with
clay, where you want to do something with the clay but the clay says, no, I don’t
want to do that. Whereas with the digital thing…you know what it can do, you can see
that you want that thing to be that blue and you just alter that blue until it’s the
perfect colour blue and you push a button and it goes blue…People who are like computer
programmers, they talk about code as being almost organic because…you’re dealing
with such vast quantities of information that it has unpredictable consequences quite often,
in the same way as…when you’re carving a piece of wood that has a grain, you might
find a sudden knot in it. People talk about computer code in that way. So maybe we are
entering an era when the people in Pixar Studios or whatever are the craftsmen, they are the
Michelangelos of the twenty first century, rather a galling thought, maybe. They are
the people I regard as cutting-edge craftsmen. There’s a counter movement against digital
culture which I think is very healthy. When you think of folk / music festivals, live
theatre, live events of all sorts, live activities like craft, do have a balancing revival. How
kind of deep that is, I don’t know, but I trust that human nature will out, and that
we will get what we want, or deserve, or need. In our lifetime we have seen our relationship
to making things change. My father’s generation, utility man, could mend anything in the house.
He could build a wall, he could install the central heating, he could rebuild the car
engine, he could even have a tinker in the back of the telly because he was very good
at that sort of thing. So we’ve gone from that to a point where people can’t change
a plug. It’s regarded as kind of a skill if you can bake bread or something really
basic like that. The fact that now we have this constant…these trends…like knitting
suddenly becomes fashionable. There’s about half a dozen magazines about scrapbooking.
That’s a shocker to me. Scrapbooking used to be something you mucked about with as a
kid, you cut up old magazines, now you go to the shops and you buy scrapbooking supplies.
It’s happened so fast. I think that one of the great empowering things about learning
craft is…it’s almost like a manifestation, a physical manifestation of, I can change
the world. Whereas perhaps children now, I’m being very out there in thinking this, perhaps
now they’re thinking, I can change the virtual world. Meanwhile their real world around them,
they’re powerless. That’s the extreme view, but I don’t know, I wonder.

21 thoughts on “Grayson Perry discusses craft and art

  1. One man who can cram so much sense and understanding of the modern age, the history of art and the place of craft skills in our lives into just seven minutes.
    Fascinating to hear non pretentious clear trains of thought, it's like watching a brain work.

  2. Painting on the way to becoming a craft? the what? "doing a poo, do it really well?" the aesthetics of doing a poo? yeah well, I'll leave ya with that one….

  3. For me 'Grayson' is one of the most wisest people alive today, and great Artist.

    I have loved his latest series, we need more of this!

    Regards and respect, Andrew.x.

  4. Ironic that he talks a bit dismissively about scrapbooks, when many of his vases employ nearly the same type of concept (i.e. taking bits of information and pictures and arranging them "just so" into an overall work) and somewhat resemble pages out of a scrapbook. Albeit, a very subversive scrapbook, but as far as the aesthetic qualities go, they are quite similar in many ways.

  5. Nice link to Adam Curtis' new film Hypernormalisation, where the point is made that as people feel powerless in the physical world they potentially cultivate power in a virtual world. Very good video, thanks all.

  6. An interesting video and a long running debate. I think the lines are blurring between art and craft. It seems that the word craft is more often used for specific mediums but I have seen as much art with wool or wood or beads as with paint.

  7. I used to feel the same way he seems to feel about scrapbooking. But when I began to do altered books I realized they aren't just gluing pictures to ugly patterned paper. There is merit in having a scrapbooking store. Also, I do understand about his view of digital art…traditional artists tend to feel that same way. In the beginning. I feel as if they don't give it the chance it deserves. Economically speaking, it's widely accessible, and that gives me hope for the future. I can practice and do studies until I'm blue in the face, and I didn't ruin 10 canvases. To each their own , of course.

  8. A true artist is someone that stayed steady from very young and was always told you are a artist because many artists are like inventors they make things that are definitely new and different.

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