Tony Cragg

Untitled Statement


The interests . Man's relationship to his environment and the objects, materials and images in that environment . The relationships between objects, materials and images . Obvious and immense areas; but apparently difficult areas for artists to work in without resorting to magic, alchemy or mystification . That could infer an objective approach, or, as I prefer to see it, a refusal to equate subjectivity with certain kindes of heavy-handed dramatics.

The objects . I am not interested in reomanticizing an epoch in the distand past when techonology permitted men to make only few objects, tools etc. . But, in contrast to today I assume a materialistically simpler situation and a deeper understanding for the making processes, function and even metaphysical qualities of the objects they produced . The social organizations which have proved to be most successful are productive systems . The rate at which objects are produced increases; complementary to production is consumption . We consume, populating our environment with more and more objects . With no chance of understanding the making processes because we specialize, specialize in the production, but not in the consumption.

The materials . The use of various materials, stone, bronze, iron etc. has been used as indications of technological development . Our use if materials goes as far as radioactive elements and biochemical substances of most complex nature . Particularly exploitable have proved to be the chemically stable polymers-plastics . Due to the long relationship between man and such materials as earth, water, wood, stone and certain metals they evoke a rich variety of emotional responses and images . The experience of these materials alters, however, as they appear increasingly in synthetic, industrial forms . What does it mean to us on a conscious, or, perhaps more important, unconscious level to live amongst these and many other completely new materials? Many materials/objects because of their function or chemical instability need a protective coating . It is often possible and usually desrable to give materials/obejcts a color.

The colors . It has not always been easy to produce colors and then they were frequently impermenant and limited . The colors of plants and animals are also limited and related to function . The possibilities for making the colors are unlimited and the choice should be too . But, many decision about the colors of objects in our environment are industrial, commercial or even administrative . A response to demand? A demand often created by the supplier . The choice is between a range of offers which already represent some kind of lowest common denominator . These colors only become interesting after they have led a life reacting to the atmosphere and light, touched by other materials.

The images . Celluloid wildlife, video landscapes, photographic wars, Polaroid families, offset politics . Quick change, something new on all channels . Always a choice of second-hand images . Reality can hardly keep up with its marketing image . The need to know both objectively and sibjectively more about the subtle fragile relationships between us, objects, images and essential natural processes and conditions is becoming critical . It is very important to have first order experiences - seeing, touching, smelling, hearing - with objects/mages and to let that experience register . Art is good for that.


From: theories and documents of contemporary art - a sourcebook of artists' writing. Edited by Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz. Berkeley / Los Angeles / London: University of California Press 1996.