Craft versus Art – How to have a spirited dinner party conversation

Politics, religion and art are topics of conversation guaranteed to produce strong opinions around our dinner table with more dissension than agreement. Last night was no different as we struggled to define what is Art and what is Craft or perhaps Fine Craft with the subjects of the debate being the exhibits in the current Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7) here in Brisbane. A friend who is quite a good artist had also visited the exhibition and was happy to throw in his contribution to the conversation.  I always look forward to his Christmas Cards as they are often chosen from one of the many sketches he makes when traveling.

He felt that some of the exhibited works were more craft than art but wasn’t able to explain what prompted this concept. We couldn’t come to a conclusion because they have so many common characteristics such as imagination, creativity, skill, and of course how the piece relates to the viewer and what it’s meaning is. Using the expression of Craft would not demean the work but it does define the different disciplines required to produce each piece. One thought we had was that if the work has a connection to a utilitarian origin then even though there may have been great skill in creating that piece with an imaginative application and use of materials it might be categorised as craft.

Lou looking at Dilly Bags

Lou looking at Dilly Bags

My favourite exhibit was the enormous bags created by Lorraine Connelly-Northey from pieces of recycled iron including rolls of discarded fencing wire and the rusted inner springs of a mattress. They all were wonderful and different and I wished that I had a wall big enough to exhibit one of them. Both my sister and I thought that these were fantastic; clever, imaginative and creative based on the utilitarian ‘dilly bag’. As a woman I carry a bag everyday of my life filled with all manner of goodies. When I was on crutches a couple of years ago, negotiating stairs, the ‘dilly bag’ was essential as once I had got up the stairs I wasn’t going down them again until I had to. Everything I thought I would need for the day was thrown into the bag and slung over my shoulder.

These bags were only one of the many fabulous pieces being exhibited.Dilly bags- APT Brisbane Dec 2012Go and have a look at these and the other exhibits. They challenge your conceptions. Some are beautiful, some ugly, but all make you rethink the object’s frame of reference. It is a huge exhibition and almost impossible to view one visit. It is free so don’t rush it, go back again and again and you’ll see something different each time.

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