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Workmanship? Skill? Expression beyond the technical?


Janel

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"Am I to admire the workmanship and skill...OR...should I expect some expression, beyond the purely technical? from Ford Hallam"

 

What do you look for when creating a piece, why do you do what you do and what do you hope to accomplish?

 

As a viewer what do you look for when looking at something another person has created? What do you want or expect or wish to see?

 

What do you want to provide in your own work?

 

We all respond to any one piece differently. We all have different experiences, abilities, emotional responses, skills, etc. How does any of this play a role in how we respond to a piece? How does any of this affect how we approach looking at a piece? So many questions, ask them, answer them here.

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Process and discovery are my driving forces when I work intently on a piece. I am not thinking of much else. I find that I am engrossed with the exact moment. Not what has happened or what might be. My only moments of "what if" are the break times when I critically look at what I am doing. Sometimes that does not occur until the next day when my eyes are rested and not clouded by my drive to create.

 

Fred

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Janel,

I think Technical studies are just that. I don't see them as art as much as an exercise or display of skill. Studies can intuitively end up Art and Art can end up a study when it is so dry hehe. Something that is truly beautiful is not an exercise in accuracy or material selection, it is in the expression. The human interpretation of the realistic that communicates something beyond realism. It does not have to be based on realism, but that is the core of the issue here. Accurate work and good material selection surely play a part, but left by themselves are dry and emotionless. I think that a well executed study is really neat and I enjoy looking. I use them to learn about my subject and explore my abilities. I hand out the kudos and enjoy receiving them just like most on this forum, but for myself I make a distinction between Art and Technical study. One is a learning tool and the other moves me. Things such as the claw are of course open to interpretation. Someone might be truly moved by it. I am not moved by it, but I do see its merit and think that the artist has a great skill set to apply towards something that speaks beyond Technical skill. For me art needs to express something beyond technical excellence. It needs to evoke something in the viewer beyond respect for the makers hand work.

We tend to get caught up in "Pedigree of Process" and that is fine since we discuss process allot. Art is blind to process. Process is used as a means to an end. That end being an expression of the human spirit that can evoke emotion via the art as it stands alone.

Now the Pedigree can add allot don't get me wrong. It can add financial value, intrinsic value, Historical authenticity. Its a good thing, but it just doesn't make it good art all by itself for me.

Regards,

Patrick

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Hi Janel and All

 

I have to agree with Patrick's sentiments on this one, however, I feel that by studying a piece whether it be ancient or modern, that there is an urge to look deeper into how the artist achieved the final piece.

 

I look for inspration in a piece that I like, and often find myself wondering how the artist was inspired.

 

Other artists works are often a tool for learning new ideas and techniques.

 

Regards to all

 

Mike Mc

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Here are a couple of newbie cents thrown in.

 

There is a place in the world of art for the study, from which both the artist and the viewer can learn. What you get from any piece you look at depends in part on your own circumstances. A person may be in a frame of mind with certain previous experiences that could compel them to be moved by a study of any particular object.

 

The thing about art is any “rule” you can articulate can be negated by another such. Two people can have completely different experiences of a particular work of art and each experience will have validity.

 

In saying this, I don’t mean to say that discussion is not useful. One of the most enjoyable things for an artist or those who appreciate art is a lively discussion of an era or a style or a work of art. I just mean to say that at the end of the day, an individual comes to a work of art through their own doorway which no one else can use. That’s what makes a horse race, just to mix up the metaphors!

 

For myself, I’ve found over time something to love in many eras, styles and works. One of my favorite lines in all of art is in Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. It is in the center figure, the one holding both arms behind her head. The line that runs down the inside of her right arm and around her breast, with a break as the line makes the curve underneath the breast, is for me breathtaking in its beauty. I don’t know if others are moved by that one line, but I am. However, I also love to look at, for instance, Maria Sibylla Merian’s studies of the plants and flowers of Surinam.

 

Maybe what I appreciate most about art is the variety and depth of the feelings it has brought to my life and how it has helped me to look at the real living world about me more carefully, helping me to appreciate it in a way I might otherwise not have done.

 

All the best,

Kitty

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Every piece of art is always connected to the artist.

 

I believe that looking at a sculpture, painting or even a building should always give you some kind of information about the creator.

That information can be plaesing or not. It can be obvious or blurry, but somewhere you have to find, or at least think you find, a reason for the artist to create this piece art.

Maybe sometimes you need the "Pedigree of Process" to open your eyes, that's okay. In my opinion the lack of any information or intention to communicate is the difference between craft and art.

Of course there is the possibility that you find a masterpiece between your holidaypictures. But the absence of any intention to communicate with the viewer is why it is not art, in my opinion.

 

Reading the posts I think my ideas aren't that different.

 

Leon

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Leon,

 

I'm not too sure I would agree with the idea you express here;

 

In my opinion the lack of any information or intention to communicate is the difference between craft and art.

 

There is always "information" contained in any artifact and this can be read by anyone sensitive enough to take the time to look or recognise it. The quality and range of this information is obviously going to be on a continium that at one end is about the basic working processes and skills and at the other end, the expression of complex and meaningful emotion. It is this continium that makes a mockery of the artificial divide between art and craft.

 

But the absence of any intention to communicate with the viewer is why it is not art, in my opinion.

 

This statement is a little more tricky for me. I'm not convinced that the intention of the artist to comunicate is actually a prerequisite to the producion of art at all. I'm thinking of the sort of work that we admire that is actually merely ( and I don't mean in a lesser sort of way at all) an unselfconcious and uncontrived expression of the artist. I'm convinced that certain dancers, singers and musicians in particular, deliver performances that, although we may experience as utterly moving and even transendant, are in fact nothing really to do with us, the audience. The performance we have been privilaged to be a small part of, and be carried by, was in fact an intimate communion between the artist and the song, or dance. Incidentally, this shared, transendant experience is refered to in Flamenco circles as "Duende". That we can derive some "information" from such a production of art is incidental to it's actual production. I genuinely believe the same to be true of all Art forms with the possible exeption of the literary arts.

 

I don't mean to try and second guess any underlying meaning which you may have but something that your comments suggest to me is the point that art can't happen by accident. The act of making, and thereby expressing, is one that takes effort and intent. This is evidently why the information we discern about the making of a work of art is of interest and value to many of us.

 

well, that's enough from me....I'm enjoying this ;) , thanks everyone.

 

Namaste, Ford

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One of my favorite lines in all of art is in Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. It is in the center figure, the one holding both arms behind her head. The line that runs down the inside of her right arm and around her breast, with a break as the line makes the curve underneath the breast, is for me breathtaking in its beauty. I don’t know if others are moved by that one line, but I am

 

Yep...nice line!!

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In my day-to-day duties as a sort of "official sculptor" I tend to work in circles that often represent conflicting views on the subject of technical ability and artistic expression. Technical expertise is often frowned upon in favor of pure expression. In some influential circles, the exhibition of craftsmanship in art immediately relegates the artist to the decorative arts or fine crafts pigeon hole, and they are shunned as though their work was contaminated by some infectious pestilence that could somehow decimate the artistic progress of the 20th century. This is not my opinion, but it is the opinion of many. Personally, I view fine crafts as on a par with fine arts, in fact I see very little difference.

 

Regarding the question of what do I try to accomplish in an artwork, or look for in the work of others, it is a matter of both craftsmanship and emotion. In short, I like a piece to simply be well-made, and for it to evoke some sort of emotion in me, or in others. It doesn't matter what that emotion is, or how obvious it is, just that it is there. As Patrick so eloquently stated, the process, or what format or medium it is created in is less important, so long as the piece is emotive. However, I admit to being somewhat lazy and I don't like to have to work too hard (or read too much) to get it, and I am impressed by technical expertise in the creative process, and it does affect my feelings on any given piece.

 

As it has been so correctly pointed out, art is intensely personal. I often see high art in the most simple forms of craft, and pure commercial craft in some pieces that pose as the finest of fine art. For example, (plug your ears and cover your eyes Kitty) I find a lot of commercial craft in some (not all) of Picasso's work, and it simply leaves me cold. However, I studied Picasso in college, I understand his work, and have paid and traveled to see several major retrospectives. I do recognize him as a great artist, and wouldn't question why anyone is moved by his work.

 

A bit of an enigmatic statement, but art is an unwritten language, and therefore inherently elusive to describe.

 

Phil

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I like to think about these things deeply, and not always just dash off a quickie statement. I'm still thinking, (and enjoying this discourse), but so far I'm with Phil on this.

I'll formulate my own words later, but right now... we're crafting an artistic fajita dinner (homemade, of course), and my stomach is ruling my head. But on that note....think of fine cuisine vs. McDonalds. Art vs. commodity?!

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I just returned from a lovely evening with a few artists (painters and sculptors) and as often we happened to have a simular discussion. I was very disappointed by a respectable artist who's work is in several musea. He claimed that his work is art because he is an artist (!) "making bread is done by bakers, I make art" This illustrates the range of arguments. We are all looking for an understandable description. We want grip on it. For me, yes, there must be the intention to tell me something. (And "duende" tells me a lot about the music, as good singers and dancers should.)

The message may be blurry, I even prefer that. And technical skills must be as good as possible for that job, any lack of skills is always a disappointment. "My child could make it" may be true when viewing at abstract paintings but I am sure the kid has nothing to tell me. (Nowadays chimps are known for there expressive paintings! Somewhere there is an art-making elefant.)

 

Of course any object contains information, even a rock on the beach. Being sensitive enough it is possible it makes you want to cry. But the same rock carved in wood tells me much more.

 

Many good artists are not concerned about this kind of discussions. Good artists have the ability to make art without concerning about telling or sharing.

Ford called it the 'unselfconcious and uncontrived expression of the artist', he's right but no serious art-critic wil agree! We all want some grip!

 

For what it's worth... There is as much pleasure in looking at art as there is in looking at good craftsmanship!!

 

Nice discours indeed.

 

Leon

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Guess I will throw my opinion into the discussion.

 

I appreciate the claw for its technical display, realism and being from the coast also understand the beauty and inspiration that started the piece. It would seem to me that it is unfair to judge the work from a simple photograph on a sterile background. Holding the piece would probably change the whole perception of the work. Work of a like manner is posted regularly on this forum by which I mean highly realistic pieces and they provoke little debate. The only difference I can see is the claw is a part of not a whole creature nor is it contained in a "scene" such as a branch, bowl, etc. The technical virtuosity is there, the realism is there, the reproduction of nature is there. This piece is a fragment not unlike pieces of figurative and other sculpture in museums the world over.

 

While I appreciate them ( the claw and museum fragments) for their beauty, do they "move" me? Few knock me over, most make me smile and say "damn that's good" but is that all that is required to be art? Is it a study or a finished piece? Does it matter or does intent make all the difference?

 

As previously stated, appreciation of art is as varied as the individual viewing it. I think we can all agree that there are many failures exhibited along side successful pieces where the intent and emotional effort was equal. Both evoke a emotional response. If the extremely refined technical skills are there in both works then which is truly art and which is the failure? Individual opinions and responses determine the outcome.

The one thing I enjoy the most about this forum is how it makes me examine my own work and views concerning it. It stimulates an isolated brain into thinking in a broader scale. The downside is that discussions like this can become to intellectualized turning into overly complex monsters. Thinking to much can kill art of any kind, both in the creation, appreciation and critique of.

Braque said it best... " To define something is to substitute the definition for the thing itself."

 

Mark

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Hallo all,

 

for me the discussion doesn`t hit the point right now. (Sorry for my english again- it is quite a handicap when it comes to more abstract matters)

 

I feel one shouldn`t think much about an audience. Just following the urge to make something important for oneself. Something to have fun with while creating. Not much people tend to think about play then it comes to art. But for me an artist has to play. Play with meanings , materials and proportions. Miniature artists are tending to talk too much about skills. I think these skills are just a tool. Old techniques and topics mean nothing when they are used to make weak copies of old work. On the other hand one can find a kind of novelty coercion in contemporary fine arts. Personally I want to hold a balance and make something that satisfies me. Luckily enough this is an unattainable goal - the perfect reason to play on.

 

regards,

Karl

 

p.s. Hi Leon,

for me the artist you had talked with is right. His profession is to be an artist. His motivation is expressed in a nonverbal way. (the decision if it is good art or not lies in the hands of the audiance - the same situation is found in a bakery - the cakes are good or not)

The point is the little amount of an indescribable magic (or the labour of lobbyists who are making money in the art industry - another item to talk about) what turns an artifact into a piece of art. :)

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Many good artists are not concerned about this kind of discussions. Good artists have the ability to make art without concerning about telling or sharing.

 

 

I feel one shouldn`t think much about an audience. Just following the urge to make something important for oneself. Something to have fun with while creating. Not much people tend to think about play then it comes to art.

 

1 + 1 = 2!

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I look for something that is enjoyable to see. The technical, skill is what makes it a joy to see. Good carvings, paintings, sculptures, woodworks, metal working, and all other art works, are a joy to see.

I look for inspration in art and nature. I hope that my technical skill will allow me to create art, that is pleasing to me and others.

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Hello everyone,

what a great topic. The discussion of what is art and what moves and motivates the artist and the audience is one that has most likely been going on at least since the Lascaux cave paintings were created.As seen from the responses, art (and craft) is a topic far to broad for any one person to acurately define. Is every wood carver, jeweler, stone mason, engraver, painter, sculptor etc to be considered an artist? I could answer that question but the answer would only be valid for me. There are those who feel that only work done by the avant-garde in a non representational style should be classified as art. While others feel that everyperson who ever made some type of craft work should be called an artist (probably listening to what the buddha had to say about the middle path would be constructive). For my part I love to do the work. I love the process of creating. There are few (though certainly some) things which I have made That I would feel comfortable classifying as art. However that is my work, I feel comfortable being critical of it in a way I never would with others work.

 

Some things elicit an emotional response in one while others do not. Im sure there are some people in the world who can look at michealangelo's pieta and feel nothing. Does that lessen the power or importance of the piece for the rest of us? Certainly not for me.

Anyway thats my current thoughts on the subject.

Peace

Dustin

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I think the age-old question of what is art is slightly off-topic. I'd like to stay focused on the common theme with all of our works, i.e. the small scale, and how that size sets up conditions - for better or for worse- that larger artwork doesn't have. Given small scale work- where do we put the emphasis?

 

The technical aspects outweigh expression when trying to create audience impact or interest at 7 centimeters. To use a somewhat cliche example (there are doubtless other, better ones) a Jackson Pollock painting- heavy on the expression side of the scale- would have absolutely no impact in small scale. One needs to be SURROUNDED by a painting like that to feel an effect and make a connection.

 

Smallness invites scrutiny not typical with large sculpture. Residual tool marks, errors and scratches are more visible. Impreccable finishing is call for.

The impact of color is less powerful; evidenced in the relatively monochrome pallettes we work with.

Gesture becomes more subtle and restrained.

 

-------------------------------------

I wonder if there is much to be learned from the study of jewelry and how visual impact is created in that field. Do we feel the same seeing a ring in a solid, chunky abstract form as we would seeing the same form in a field, as big as a tree? An intricate tsuba would have no effect the size of a dinner table top. Can anyone recommend some writings about the aesthetics of jewelry?

 

 

-Doug

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I think Doug hit it on top. He, to me, makes it understandable why we all are so much focused on technical aspects.

There's almost no place, in the viewers eyes, besides the technical perfection. That's always the overwhelming part of the carvings+.

So we all struggle to put some emotion in a nutshell.

Nevertheless absolutely necessarily and worth while.

(And that is not so much different from all other art forms. It's the struggle, the intention to go further, that counts. That wich I called earlier 'the intention to communicate'.)

 

-Leon-

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I think Doug hit it on top. He, to me, makes it understandable why we all are so much focused on technical aspects.

There's almost no place, in the viewers eyes, besides the technical perfection. That's always the overwhelming part of the carvings+.

So we all struggle to put some emotion in a nutshell.

Nevertheless absolutely necessarily and worth while.

(And that is not so much different from all other art forms. It's the struggle, the intention to go further, that counts. That wich I called earlier 'the intention to communicate'.)

 

-Leon-

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Hi there,

 

 

yes on one hand Doug is right - every flaw on a tiny object becomes meaningful.

 

On the other hand he (in my opinion) wrong.

 

First, if your composition is done carefully size becomes less important. Even tiny objects can be "monumental".

(Here is a link to Stone Age Art: Old Stuff there are some sculptures below on the page)

The sculpturer Ron Mueck plays a lot with matters of size.

 

Secondly, in my opinion the desire for flawlessness is a kind of missunderstanding japanese aestetics.

A lot of us tend to make weak copys of Edo period work. It seems that we try to avoid to seek for our own personal expression. That it is possible to make an personal statement using old fine art metalworking technique was shown by modern artists of the early 20th century - Hugo for Max Ernst.

 

Technical matters can not outweight a lack of expression - they can impress the audiance in a superficial way. I feel one of the most important things is to use technique that it becomes unvisible - expression remains technique has to be hidden (related to my thoughts on mokume gane posted earlier) Here is an fan painted by Oskar Kokoschka - for me an highly expressive achievement made by an apparently humble technique ( it is not simple to paint with watercolors on parchment).

 

For me it is important that composition, size, material, gesture etc. assist my wants. Sometimes flaws adding a big deal of meaning.( Georg Petel 17th century - head of christ -ivory)

Sabiji or ishimeji are just artificial flaws to express the makers intention.

 

We should use all possibilitys but we should know what we are intending.

 

best regards

 

Karl

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I've always heard that size doesn't matter. Salvador Dali crammed enormous amounts of detail into tiny little paintings. He also painted monumental sized canvases. Both sizes were effective to convey their meaning to the intended patron(s). There was no issue about size or detail only the feelings that the people on the viewing end had was what really mattered. As I've said before....It's all subjective, some things "work" and some things don't. An artist can't please everyone, so you try to please / satisfy yourself. If it's "good", the world finds the way to your door. (Just be sure to answer when they knock).

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Thanks guys for those examples, all of which I think illustrate my point (with the exception of the stone-age sculptures...). Each of those pieces is very conscious of scale- Mueck's sculptures take the human subject- something for which we have clear, firm ideas about when it comes to size- and present it at a different scale than we expect, creating a wonderful dis-ease and astonishment with the viewer. Dali's smaller paintings with representation detail are exactly what is called for on that scale in order to create a presence- though in my opinion, without much expressed.

 

The early 20th century modern pieces leave me a little dry- Were they direct collaborations between artist and jeweler, or was Hugo given permission to use existing designs? There are some nice historical nods to ancient coinage, but the imagery is the same as on Picasso's ceramic vases and plates, Cocteau's book illustrations, etc. It seems to be product merchandising at this point.

 

Which leaves me with stone age sculpture. There is something I like about this stuff, but I can't help wondering if the age, wear and romantic notions of someone circa 30,000 years ago carving it are influencing my thoughts. Like the parallel discussion going on about why we think what we do. Would we dismiss these items if seen in a gallery today as being amateurish? What did they look like new? But back to scale... I would like to think these very old small sculptures had an intimate relationship with a person. Cave wall art was public; the small stuff was coveted and kept private. Small scale items create a personal relationship with us that larger ones can never have. We can not only see them, but grasp, hide, own and reveal them. They are on the scale of our hands and eyes. The dialog is very different than looking at a 8 foot Rothko or a Pieta.

 

Karl- you do bring up interesting points regarding artificial flaws. There are times, aren't there, when artists create intentional flaws or purposely keep things primitive in order to hide technical in-expertise? I see this a lot in contemporary bookbinding during my day job, for instance. Because we aren't able to accomplish something, we don't, and we try to claim that we meant to do it simplistically all along.

 

 

Enjoyable discussion... much easier being a critic than an artist ;)

Back to the bench :ph34r:

 

Regards,

Doug

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The early 20th century modern pieces leave me a little dry- Were they direct collaborations between artist and jeweler, or was Hugo given permission to use existing designs? There are some nice historical nods to ancient coinage, but the imagery is the same as on Picasso's ceramic vases and plates, Cocteau's book illustrations, etc. It seems to be product merchandising at this point.

 

Enjoyable discussion... much easier being a critic than an artist ;)

Back to the bench :ph34r:

 

Hi Doug,

 

it really is an enjoyable discussion.

For the collaboration of the Hugo family with fine artists - this relationship was both- to create outstanding art work in gold and silver (really heavy golden pieces) and editions for merchandising (later).

Because the whole thing was kept a kind of secret for a longer time only sparse information is around about this topic.

 

This little article says a bit :Picassos decorative metalwork

and this Book is the most comprehensive source of information Tribute to Francois Hugo- Bijoux Artistes

 

best regards

Karl

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