Thursday, 3 March 2011

Mums the Word- Will’s mum casts her applied eye over the world of student art

I’m working on the Archive for the ceramics department. In 2009 the university withdrew the course to newcomers and it will close next year as the final few students graduate in what will probably be a right old send off in a private gallery with sushi and champagne (I think we have a bit of a reputation for fancy degree show catering . . .could be making up for something lacking elsewhere- I don’t know). Anyway, the closure will also coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Harrow Ceramics- a kind of bastion of pottery that had it’s hey day back in the seventies when potters were potty and artists were arty and no one had to write a fucking thing about any of it. So what the department is left with to do with as they see fit is decade’s worth of ceramic artefacts which have been dusted down and photographed. I make them look a bit more uniform as a collection and they will be posted on Facebook to either return them to their owners or discover who owns them. I’m thinking of copying Eduardo Savarin’s algorithm for Harvard a right left preference selection to see which piece comes out as most attractive, either that or compare them to farm animals – should be quite possible in some cases.

One thing that has arisen from this strange catalogue is how really awful most of the work is. Now that may sound a bit harsh and I don’t want to appear disrespectful to the craft I have studied and practiced for the last twenty five years, but I have to say I am fairly upset just how much crap we produce as students. I mentioned this to a curator friend and showed a few examples to qualify my point, which I would love to share but feel it may be considered rude to single out some particularly hideous work then she said ‘But these works are only the beginning of their careers’. I had two thoughts. Firstly omg if that’s how it was at the beginning, then they definitely never went any further. And secondly I was reminded how I was emotionally caught up in dreadful anxiety about my degree show and how I felt it was possibly my finest hour. a culmination of three years of work on which I would be judged as an artist and of course how I would secretly be spotted by a prestigious gallery who would recognise my already stunning contribution to breaking down the barriers between fine and applied arts . . . i was going to be the next Grayson Perry, make a million and go on the talking circuit slaging off the very craft that I made a name for myself with.

Let me just ramble a bit in that middle aged mum way. In our house we have grown up with applied art and fine art existing together-not equally- but observing the overlapping issues and understanding material relationships. Some of you young whippersnappers may not have ever given the applied arts the same levels of regard as conceptualism. A plank of wood leaning up against a wall. . . an engraved plank of wood etc. But material concerns are clearly something to understand. A craftsman is married to his materials, a long suffering unbreachable love affair that endures no matter what pretty young digital thing comes his way, he will nurture and protect that discipline even if it means putting up with things when the going gets tough, no more courses to do, no more investment, no more teaching opportunities, no more commercial viability because IKEA do it so much nicer and so much cheaper. A mixed media artist will flit in and out of scenes, dating with a view to maybe getting involved, using materials like prostitutes going where the good times are to be had, oh I’ll see how this looks in PVC? Neither is correct, neither is wrong, its just different and that difference is what makes for such a curious set of artists as yourselves, all so different in material use and all so different in what you are trying to communicate.

So if you are on Facebook watch out for the ceramic object comparison contest and if you are preparing for your degree show remember Mums words of crafty wisdom ‘don’t be such a faggot all your life’ oh alright then. . Bob Dylan’s poetic words of wisdom ‘you know what you must do, so do it well’. Good luck, I look forward to casting my applied eye over your planks.


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