Paper: “Craft versus Concept: Teaching Contemporary Printmaking”
Conceptual Art’s emphasis on ideas over form is bound to affect our teaching of art. Too often however it has called into question the validity of “making” art at all. This paper will seek to analyse the conflict between craft and concept that affects our teaching of traditional printmaking. It will consider the status of the specialist printmaking degree at a time when medium specificity is being discouraged.
Conceptual art empowers prints, prints have always been linked with ideas, but it is problematic for craft. While prints are no longer demeaned for their multiplicity or information-giving aspects, the idea of the technical virtuosity required to make traditional forms of print is treated with suspicion. It is argued that art students should no longer define themselves by medium. Instead media should be chosen to suit the ideas behind each particular project. It is a persuasive argument but leaves teachers with the problem of how to introduce students to the great variety of media needed to make this work in practice. It necessitates methods whereby students make an etching, or lithograph if and when their ideas need these techniques, but without becoming specialists. A tall order when these crafts do require time and skill. Furthermore, how are students to decide on appropriate media for their ideas until we have provided them with substantial experience of many techniques? Students need experience in order to realise the expressive capabilities open to them.
Colleges have a responsibility to provide students with an education that prepares them to be successful in the contemporary art world of ideas and multiple media. They must, however, guard against the temptation to teach only what is fashionable, and continue to teach lifelong skills that enable artists to continue their development beyond the present situation.
JO GANTER was born in Yorkshire in 1963, and now works and lives in Glasgow. She was awarded an MA (hons) in Fine Art from the University of Edinburgh in 1988. She has shown work in many group shows across Europe and the US, including the Tyler gallery, Philadelphia (1994), the KALA Institute, Berkeley, California, where she was a fellow in 1994, and the International Print Triennial, Cracow (1997). In the same year the artist also exhibited work in Nuremberg, the Print Biennial at Gyor in Hungary, and the International Print Exhibition at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. More recently she has contributed to exhibitions in Estonia (Tallin Print Triennial 2001), Sweden (Falun International Print Triennial, 2001), Graphica Creativa 2002 at the Jyvaskyla Art Museum in Finland and in Italy (Chieri, Palazzo Opesso, Engraving Triennial, 2003). Jo Ganter has also presented solo exhibitions at The Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh (2003), and at the A.I.R. Gallery in New York (2000) and the Hart Gallery in London (2003). Her work has gained her awards and residencies, amongst them a Rome Scholarship (1989), a Boise Scholarship (1993) and a Sir William Gillies Award (2005). She was recently elected to the Royal Scottish Academy. Collections holding her work include The Contemporary Art Society, London, The Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, New York Public Library and the Hunterian Art gallery and Museum in Glasgow. Throughout her career the artist has taught at various institutions in Britain and the US, including Wellesley College Massachussetts and the Museum School of Fine Art in Boston. She is currently a part-time Lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art.