I was recently invited to provide the catalogue forward for an exhibition coming up in london. This is what I wrote.
The Millinery Works has a history closely associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. Many of these makers exhibiting here have a similar association if not direct inspiration. The Arts and Crafts movement was a movement of political and aesthetic revolt. They were against a Victorian urban industrialism led by inspirational socialist thinkers of the calibre of William Morris and artists like Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rosetti.
The makers in this room can certainly be regarded as a movement, though many would not share my assertion. But what they are revolting against this may be less clear. The web forum that has enabled this exhibition to be staged contains a loose association of rugged individuals. Each supporting a myriad of different causes, ideals and creative directions. Most are deliberately working far from the centres of cultural power and influence. They inhabit small isolated workshops, some in urban but many in rural settings often creating work inspired by land, wind and weather. Makers in this room will have had to become expert at providing an exceptional customer service. Listening carefully to their clients and returning with a sensitive and creative response. Again and again they will have exceeded their customers expectation and made something that was truly extraordinary. The best will have the support of genuinely creative patronage.
If these makers, like those of the Arts and Crafts period, are in revolt, today it would be against the lack of quality in our culture. They would be against poor standards, sound bite journalism, the cheapness of our thinking, and the sheer lack of genuine quality in our lives. I am now 60 and I have spent most of my life looking at Art, waiting for an artist to come crashing through the walls of galleries with the creative power of a Matisse or a Picasso. Sadly what I have seen, time and again, has been just shabby and thin. Branded with skill but with little content. I have reasonably expected to be moved by the culture of my age and I now believe that I’ve been let down. The Salon Culture of Conceptual Art is what we creative individuals have to live within. I believe that many of the creative beings within this room may have stepped aside from that context and have chosen creative furniture making as an acceptable way to them of coexisting with an unacceptable art world. A market described by the critic Robert Hughes as ” The second largest unregulated market after the market for heroin and cocaine.” Yes, that would be something worth revolting against.