The relationship between technicians and artists, and the artwork is an interesting one. For me, as an artist the making is intrinsically linked to the thinking, these are not separate actions – one to follow the other, but each ongoing, with one informing the other. A practice that is led by process.
Technicians play a largely invisible role in the artwork from a public perspective – however, without technicians, it seems that many artworks would not be possible, from works largely made by technicians, to those informed by discussions and the expertise, and knowledge that is held by the real technical experts.
I’ve wondered if this distinction between concept and technical skill has always been as separate. Contemporary art does get a bad press, as art education has stepped away from a skill-based approach, to a theory- and concept- based approach, but some of the skills – particularly casting and foundry work has been separate from that of the modeller or artist traditionally for much longer.
The etymology of technician goes back to the Latin and then the Greek (in case you are interested), Tekhne – which encompasses art, craft, skill, method or system of making – keeping the two very much intrinsic to each other.
But never mind the past for a moment, what about the future of the artist as a skilled maker? It seems that skilled based artists are back ‘in’ again, with artists like Phoebe Cummings and her elegant, spectacular raw clay works, and the resurgence in sign painters in the design world. But within the mainstream contemporary art world, most skilled works are still carried out by skilled makers – as separate from the artist-conceiver.
As my current work is to create a permanent piece of public sculpture, I’ve been really enjoying the process of being both the artist and the maker, but the technical support has been a central key for this work to be possible. The balance between control and responsibility allows the work to be more responsive, but also has to account for my own limited, if improving skill set.
I’m already looking to further expand my skills and technical ability following on from this project, (ok, I admit, this is always my goal) but has also opened up routes for a more collaborative approach to working with experts in the future.
Huge thanks are in order for a whole host of amazingly talented people who have been supporting me on the tattiefields project, with a big thank you to the stellar humans Eden and Uist up at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop for all of their support and calming influences during my residency last month.
Work is not done yet.
Stay tuned for the final results, coming soon!