I never go to Edinburgh without making a visit to The Dovecot Studios, and as always, yesterday’s visit was wonderful.
If you’ve never been I would highly recommend a visit, but go on a Thursday or Friday after 12 so you can climb the stairs to the viewing gallery and walk round looking down at the looms and work in progress of the Edinburgh master weavers.
My friend Lindsay and I slowly completed a full circle of the gallery whilst a young lady and her Mom were having a tour of the rooms to discuss holding her wedding there, what an original idea, it’s a shame I’m already married! Down in the studio was a huge gun tufted rug being worked by Victoria Morton. The work required to complete this piece must be immense and the skill needed enviable, we were in awe of Victoria’s ability to translate a very complex abstract work of art into a beautiful and tactile object.
This led us onto a discussion about ‘was this art or craft?’ We had the previous day been to an exhibition at the Fruitmarket by Mark Wallinger. The exhibition was definitely ‘art’ because it included paintings and conceptual pieces but I had been almost offended by the lack of work that had gone into the actual pieces, they were simply black paint slapped on canvas and a rather dull iPhone photograph collage and here lies the crux of our discussion. Is art about the object or the feelings it elicits?
Should art always be expected to challenge our feelings and views? Is it enough that it makes us go ‘what!’ or ‘grrh!’ Or ‘yuk!’? Should it not also make us go ‘wow!’? And can that sometimes just be a happy feeling of awe and delight?
Where do traditional crafts fit in here? Where does the line between craft and art fall? Previous research into Ptolemy Mann made her views on this very clear, Ptolemy states her weaving work is art and this is because of the skill required and it frustrates her that the artistic community cannot see that.
Does the current contemporary art community have a level of elitism about it that demands that art should always be intellectually challenging? Is being pretty and attractive frowned upon? I wonder if their delicate egos have caused them to collectively agree that their work should elicit negative comments and that this was their intention all along so they do not have to work towards genuine positive feedback therefore protecting their inflated opinions of themselves. And worse still this allows them to look down and undermine the extensive work and skill that does into a piece of work that uses a craft technique as its medium. Thank god for Grayson Perry!
So back to The Dovecot and it’s current exhibition, at the moment only one of the rooms are open, but although compact The Weavers Apprentice exhibition was very interesting.
In the centre of the room there was a loom set up with apprentice weaver Ben Hymer’s work, sometimes he is there demonstrating but not on the day we attended. Ben is working this rug from the front and the back which I found particularly fascinating.
It was very interesting to see a display of the design work that had gone into his piece Penelope. I like the fact that he worked the design from a character in a book and not a physical object.
The walls of the room were the back drop to a considered display of old and new rugs and tapestries completed at the gallery.