There are no painted canvases in the latest exhibition at the Nancy Sever Gallery but there are works of art on the walls and on plinths. The pieces on display are created from metal, glass and ceramics. These materials often fall into the category of craft rather than art and this raises the vexed question about the difference between art and craft. For me, it is an issue of language. The word craft lacks the élan, conceptual depth and emotional expression that is evoked by the word art.
An artist creates an object and imbues it with light while a craftsperson skilfully renders a functional and /or beautiful object. I agree with Sally Markowitz, author of The Distinction Between Art and Craft who states that ‘once classified as craft, a work has trouble counting not only as great art, but as any sort of art at all…on this view the only real distinction to be made may well be the one between the social status of those who become artists and those who become craftspeople.’ Markowitz makes the valuable point that ‘art has a positive evaluative connotation that craft lacks…’
The pieces on display at Nancy Sever’s gallery demonstrate the blurred boundaries between art and craft. Two of the artists (Gilbert Riedelbauch and Avi Amesbury) exhibited are accredited members of Craft ACT – but I do not believe that their work can simply be termed craft.
The organic fragility of Amesbury’s ceramics and the sleek robust sculpture of Riedelbauch’s metal forms emanate from a place that is far more profound and complex than just a skilful crafting of materials.
My favourite piece by Amesbury is the marvellous ceramic poem A Land’s Journey. The delicate balance of cups on tiles and the inscription of poetic lines is a song from the heart. The texture of Amesbury’s ceramics is exquisite. I love the speckled eggshell shapes in the After the Fire series, the flawless glaze on the cube and cup in the Dreams of home series and the photographic prints evoking another time and place in the Unravel series. This is surely art, as is the powerful dramatic statement of red and teal metal pieces in the room which showcases work by Gilbert Riedelbauch
The third artist exhibited is Mel George whose rectangular glass calendars glow and shimmer with subtle and vibrant colour. The notion of coloured weeks is simply wonderful. I am particularly drawn to Rosy-Brown Week. The concept of glass and time is taken to a new place in these beautiful panels. The almost imperceptible random crosses scratched untidily here and there whimsically recall our need to notate special days.
So I leave this exhibition by three artists who have made the world a little more extraordinary by crafting metal, glass and ceramic into objects which astonish us with their beauty, shift our perception and lift our hearts…
© Anita Patel, 2016