One of the iconic horse figures from Houdé's Ming Series.
One of François Houdé's boule brisé or broken bowls.
I was really looking forward to Denis Longchamps' lecture on sloppy craft and how it pertains to the exhibit (February 13), which he curated, Boxed In that is currently on view at two venues - The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery and the Craft Gallery of the Craft Council of NL. Back in 2011, I had suggested Sloppy Craft as a theme for that year's Universities Art Association of Canada (UAAC) craft session. Thanks to the hard work of co-chairs Elaine Cheasley Paterson and Susan Surette, a suite of papers was presented on the topic–including one by Denis Longchamps. His examples of ceramics, such as the work of Lauren Craste, were pretty self explanatory but his choice of glass art by François Houdé totally floored me. I'd always thought of Houdé's Ming Series as achingly beautiful and meticulous. So, I was really curious to hear Longchamps' talk about Boxed In.
On this occasion what surprised me was the hefty amount of time devoted by Longchamps to the issue of craft and art definitions. I had no problem with any of his points, they were all familiar, but I was surprised it was even on the agenda. Didn't we put this discussion to bed a long time ago? Why are we still talking about craft versus art? Aren't there more relevant and rewarding discussions to be had about craft and or art? Like Post-disciplinarity, Sloppy Craft or Craftivism?
Working class baseball bat meets upper class porcelain in Lauren Craste's sculpture.
To his credit, when I asked Denis about the focus on the definitions of craft and art he explained that this was not his choice but was in response to queries from the public in St. John's and The Rooms Education staff. So, my understanding is that his follow up talk on February 21st will reveal more about the Boxed In exhibit. By the way, I am happy to report that I will be submitting a review of Boxed In to Espace Sculpture.
Regarding Sloppy Craft, during the recent lecture Longchamps revisited the ceramic and glass art examples mentioned earlier. However, Longchamps did a better job of building a continuity between the functional perfume bottles, the brisé or broken bowl series and ultimately the Ming series, which were composed of recycled window panes – that made the talk worth attending all on its own.
Two final points: 1) The papers presented at the 2011 UAAC conference plus others (including one by yours truly) are now being reviewed as a volume of essays by Bloomsbury Publishers, which is the reincarnation of Berg, U.K. www.bloomsbury.com/uk/academic/
2) Check out the article in the February 7th e-version of Canadian Art for an article about NL's Craig Francis Power's recent exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. (Canadian Art <firstname.lastname@example.org> Craig Francis Power Puts Bad Boy Spin on Folk Art) His hooked mats in all their cheek, raw themes and willful disregard of technique are an excellent example of Sloppy Craft.
Craig Francis Powers' raunchy hooked mats are reviewed in Canadian Art, February 7th.