Christian Newby

Research Group: Contemporary Art Research Centre
Award studied: PhD

Project title

Technique and Intent: Reconciling Form and Content through Traditional Craft Skills in Contemporary Art Studio Practice


What impact will the use of traditional craft skills have upon a contemporary art studio practice? In what ways could art production and discourse be altered by the resurgence of techniques normally resigned to craft practices? Can a skills-based model of art-making fill in apparent pedagogical recesses formed by current conceptual approaches in art education?

Through a practice-based approach utilising methods and materials often associated with craft production this research will examine how a return to a skills-based methodology in fine art can reassert radical considerations counterpoint to current fine art discourse and education. Using techniques conventionally referred to as craft' stained glass, ceramics, and hand-tufted carpet making, I will investigate how the reconstitution of skill and an invested interest in technique can transform our understanding of the art object and disentangle current pedagogical impasses dictating our current relationship between form and content.

This research will consider key deliberations on how distinctions of fine art and craft throughout the 20th and 21st centuries have been determined' what forces have necessarily divided the importance of concept from technique, and what ways has art education played a role in undermining the importance of traditional skills. These discussions will be accompanied by the practical development of artworks aimed at re-establishing a model of studio art production concerned with approaching content through the use of traditional craft skills.

This thesis intends to reinforce studio methodologies and philosophies that consolidate the fragmentation the fine and applied arts have undergone since the 18th century, and to establish a mode of enquiry that questions the efficacy of divorcing technique-led artworks from conceptual ones. It will seek a higher level of clarification on how skills-based practices associated with craft have been viewed in contemporary art discourse, and will provide analyses imperative to identifying prevailing examples of praxis, or the overlapping of reflection and action, in contemporary art.