Art or craft?

March 21, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Art or craft?

A famous photographer, using only digital techniques (sensor, photoshop, etc.), prints an edition of six exactly identical pigment ink (a.k.a. giclée) prints – artwork or craftwork? Another photographer, equally famous, using exclusively analogue techniques (film, enlarger, etc.), prints an edition of half a dozen silver gelatine prints from one negative, all renderings almost indistinguishable except in tiny nuances and to the very discerning eye – artwork or craftwork? A master potter, using only his hands and the tools of his trade, produces six fairly similar, but visibly not identical vessels for saké (the Japanese alcoholic drink based on rice) - artwork or craftwork?

As these examples hopefully illustrate, the boundaries between artwork and craftwork, or art and craft for short, are often blurred, and sometimes appear artificial. As I learned very recently, a saké vessel is not considered art in the land of its origin, Japan. Photographs, in particular where labelled “fine art images”, however, can usually qualify for being counted as art, even where prints are easily reproduceable in the digital sphere – it’s the image itself and its individual rendering which accounts for the art character. But then why isn’t at least the individual design of a saké vessel considered art as well, and perhaps also its sequential – and never identical – “copies”?

I’m not here to provide an answer to that discussion, or even write much more on the subject, for I have not much interest in nor time for such categorization. Art – like beauty – for me is in the eye of the beholder. I find pleasure in a well executed photographic print as I also do in a well executed ceramic vessel. I like to contemplate paintings in museums, and also do the same with articles for daily use carved from wood or stone and displaying superior craftsmanship and often unique designs, or hand crafted jewellery, etc. The visual, tactile, at times acoustic or other pleasures conveyed by all of these items – be they regarded as art or craft – is all that matters … to me. Your mileage might vary. And that of many certainly does. The respect for the creator, for their inspiration and for their skills in execution, however, should not.


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