The "Craft" of "Art"

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Hmmm, that ought to make things interesting.

I was recently listening to "Fresh Air" on NPR, and host Terry Gross, who is perhaps one of the best interviewers in the world today, was asking an artist of some sort about her craft. She may have been a musician or actor, or perhaps a media artist. The point was, she took Terry to task for asking the question, basically saying, "You couldn't possibly understand if I told you."

Terry held her own. When her interviewee, who was being less than polite, suggested she would never ask a violinist how he bows a passage, etc., Terry explained that she would and has. Her point was that by delving into the craft of the art in question could give her insight and perhaps help her hear something in the music she might otherwise miss.

The point of this thought process is this: in all of the debates of art v. craft, isn't it true that one makes the other? Isn't it true that there can be no art without craft?
 

Vance Wood

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With today's understanding of Art, or what is thought to be art, the definition of art has become so clouded that it is now only necessary in "art" to posses imagination. Of course this is dependant on which branch of art you are discussing. It takes no skill or craftsmanship to defecate in a mason jar; only salesman ship to get some bone-headed museum to purchase it for their collection and call it art. This did not take craftsmanship, only imagination and (not to make a pun) a lot of Bullshiet. Bonsai is a different story. Everything in bonsai, even watering, takes a degree of craftsmanship of a sort. There is nothing in bonsai that is not steeped in tradition, technique, opinion, style, function, and interpretation of the same, so much so that many argue that bonsai is not art at all.
 
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anttal63

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the art and craft of life. it is in everything we do everyday. to what and who's standards will always be hot discussion. when you hear, see and feel your own, you will then understand and appreciate all others.
 

Attila Soos

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Controversial topic.

In the past, I've heard artists saying that too much craftmanship is actually detrimental to art. In the eary 90s I used to hang out around Montmartre, a small hill in Paris and traditional gathering place for painters. I became friends with a few. I remember one pointing out that the majority of painters on Montmartre these days are not real artists, but artisans with great craftmanship. These are commercial endeavours, with little or no artistic purpose.

I've heard that from many different artists: meticulous craftmanship can actually be a hindrance in the way of creativity, because it places undue requirements and rules on the artists. Craftmanship is always systematic and repetitive. In this context, things are "supposed to look in a certain way", which spoils the uninhibited freedom that the artist is supposed to have.

The best example is the story of the forger, who possesses almost unbelievable craftmanship and can imitate any painter to the point that is impossible to distinguish his work from the original. But his work has nothing to do with art.

This is one theory, of course. In my mind, art and craftmanship complement and help each other. The best thing is to possess both, but they can get by without each other as well. As Vance said, we can see works of art that require minimal craftmanship.

Vance also has a good point, that bonsai is controversial and has a hard time being accepted as an art form exactly because it requires so much craftsmanship.

So, I don't really agree with the premise of the thread, that art and craft create each other. But this is just my opinion, I am sure that there are just as many who can argue very well the opposite. And I have no problem with that.
 
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Controversial topic.
Vance also has a good point, that bonsai is controversial and has a hard time being accepted as an art form exactly because it requires so much craftmanship.
I don't really think that that's the reason. More tradition and limitations.

Besides, the "art-part" of bonsai doesn't really require that much craftsmanship. Theoretically, some great artist could take a collected tree/pre-bonsai/nursery tree and make a masterpiece out of it without knowing diddley doo about watering and it would be any less (or more) art because of that.
 

Vance Wood

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I don't really think that that's the reason. More tradition and limitations.

Besides, the "art-part" of bonsai doesn't really require that much craftsmanship. Theoretically, some great artist could take a collected tree/pre-bonsai/nursery tree and make a masterpiece out of it without knowing diddley doo about watering and it would be any less (or more) art because of that.
That's plausible but probably not possible. Bonsai is one art that does require a degree of craftsmanship in pruning and wiring to mention only two critical disciplines the bonsai art is incumbent upon. Without a basic grasp of some of the critical applied crafts creating bonsai is not possible.
 
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Art, like science, changes with the times. There was a time when artists and scientists were granted equal respect--look at Leonardo Da Vinci. There was a very real need for painters until photography came along, but painting as an art form was not abandoned. Painters turned to depicting non-representational things on their canvas. This was viewed at first as a lack of craft. It was not. It was an exploration of ideas using paint that may not have ever happened if cameras were not invented. This is where most who have not studied the history of art are stuck--they think art should be recognizable and beautiful.

But contemporary art is about ideas, since artists are freed from having to represent recognizeable images. Works of art can be made of new materials, not just oil paint, canvas and stone. Since Impressionism, art has evolved from merely mimicing nature to breaking through on the computer screen. What does this have to do with bonsai? If you examine some of the better work going on today, it embraces concepts like planting pines on large pieces of driftwood. Something many wouldn't dare to do but when seen creates something fresh to see. Kimura's planting of trees on a slope got us to see a new way to present a forest. It does take great skill to pull these things off, but they are mainly ideas of working with trees in a new way. The work of Nick Lenz is a lot about ideas and often makes a statement. His work is well crafted but there is more than craft alone that makes them interesting or humorous. His work has content as well as craft.

In summary, art and craft are two separate things; art being the idea and craft being the means to actualize that idea. Sometimes the division between the two blurs and I think this is when you get a Master.
 
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