In “Craft”, Pertwee, Anderson & Gold Gallery gives centre stage to a collection of contemporary fine artists whose practices elevate the status of the domestic and trade skills, challenging History of Art’s misguided distribution of certain techniques across the categories of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.
Many of the artists featured privilege traditional techniques as a means of aestheticising redundant materials, often lending sculptural relief to expendable surfaces. Tom Gallant allures and unsettles with his project of objectifying the objectified— each of his intricate sculptures is made from sourced archived pornographic images. Through embroidery interventions onto the surface of stamp sized photographic portraits, Stacey Page reflects on both the surreal and material basis of the fabric of memory, and exposes the past as woven myth. Like Grayson Perry and Alick Brown, Paul Westcombe deploys his highly original and expressive illustration style to re-write the surface of objects he creates and objects he finds— using only the simplest and most traditional mark making, between them they beautify paper cups, tapestries, paper, train tickets, mop heads and ceramic vases. The deviant and macabre work that emerges from the practices of Nancy Fouts, Bouke De Vries and Jim Skull, sit somewhere between the ready-made, surrealist sculpture and the pure craft object. That they consistently traverse these fields, shape shifting and always in guise, suggests that an alternative frame is required to read the manifesto of this generation of ‘conceptual craft’ makers.
Through a contemporary re-contextualisation of the lost arts, these practitioners meet face to face. Nancy Fouts, Tom Gallant, Bouke De Vries, Jim Skull, Stacey Page, Alick Brown, Grayson Perry, Jennnifer Muskopf, Paul Westcombe, Georgina Goodman, Gordon Cheung, Dominic Wilcox and Ben Turnbull all produce work that conflates concept with delicate and laboured form. Their clear and strong voices presence the ‘re-skilled’ artist in the time of de-skilled art practices.