The Art of Not Making: The new artist/artisan relationship - Art Collector

5 May 2011 | Despite artists like Takashi Murakami and, closer to home, Patricia Piccinini, in some quarters there still appears to be a wariness about artists who don’t actually make their own work. The Art of Not Making: The new artist/artisan relationship is a quiet rebuttal, presenting the work of contemporary artists who choose to work with artisans, craftspeople and industrial processes.

Author Michael Petry, a lecturer at the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools in London, has grouped together a wide assortment of mostly British artists based on the mediums they work in – glass, metal, stone, textiles and other materials.

Aside from a brief introduction, which explains the traditional divide between art and craft and pitches the new relationship between artist and artisan as similar to a film director and his crew, Petry steers away from the politics and chooses not to directly discuss what is gained or lost in this method of production. Instead he sticks to brief descriptions of the work, how it has been made and the challenges faced in the process.

A closing chapter with transcripts of Petry’s research interviews provides more background on the reasons why contemporary artists are choosing to produce work this way. Some talk of wanting to free their time to pursue concepts and ideas, others are frank in asking for help when techniques prove to challenging. “When I find it impossible to do something, I ask other people” says British artist Angela de la Cruz.

London’s Richard Deacon briefly points to another reason which is not often talked about when he says he likes working with other people.

The artists also discuss their relationship with the artisans they work with and how they negotiate issues of authorship.

There is definitely interest in these interviews, even if they come across as a hasty editorial add-on, but much of the pleasure is simply in learning about the production of technically difficult works, and how artists and their team of helpers have worked together to resolve challenges and overcome obstacles.

Jane O'Sullivan

The Art of Not Making: The new artist/artisan relationship is published by Thames & Hudson (208 pages, hardback)

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