Art and design

A work by Marion Wassenaar from the symposium exhibition. Wassenaar holds a master of fine arts...
A work by Marion Wassenaar from the symposium exhibition. Wassenaar holds a master of fine arts degree, with distinction, from the Dunedin School of Art. She specialises in print practices with a research interest that focuses on the collision between...
Joshua Hunter, whose work is pictured above, is an artist/designer. His practice sprawls over a...
Joshua Hunter, whose work is pictured above, is an artist/designer. His practice sprawls over a wide range of media including large-scale print installations, illustration, film and album art. He is a second-year student studying communication design...

What art and design have in common and what separates them will exercise the minds of those at a symposium in Dunedin this week. Tom McKinlay reports. 

It has been said that ''good art is a talent: good design is a skill''.

But given the upheaval in the Dunedin design community in recent times, a symposium next week aims to see if the relationship between the two is a little more nuanced.

The symposium, hosted by the Otago Polytechnic Dunedin School of Art, takes place in the shadow of the decision earlier this year by the University of Otago to close its design programme, as part of the disestablishment of the department of applied science.

Organised jointly by the polytechnic's schools of art and design, and the design programme in the University of Otago department of applied sciences, the symposium is the seventh in a regular series dating back to 2009.

''The idea is two or three-fold,'' says Dunedin School of Art senior lecturer Peter Stupples of the decision to place the focus this year on art and design.

''The most important idea really is to choose a topic which is of current significance, and art and design is significant in two ways. One, is the university has actually closed down its design department, and some of those people will be giving papers in our symposium.

"And also within the polytech there are discussions ongoing about some synergies between the school of design and the school of art. With all of that design and art material in the air it was decided this year that it would be a good idea to discuss the relationship between art and design.''

Speakers will offer perspectives from architecture, ceramics, Maori and Pacific art, and from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Some will have their feet planted firmly in art or design, while others will straddle the two.

The grey area between art and design is a shifting one, Dr Stupples says.

He opens the symposium with an historical overview.

''Of course in certain societies there was never any distinction ever made between art and design. This was true in Europe before the 14th century and is still true today in, say, Maori culture, there really isn't great distinction between art and design. In the Pacific too.''

Some speakers will talk about the ''craft'' of the Pacific as a way of seeing art and design together.

The distinction in Europe followed the elevation of artists during the Renaissance, when three particular arts - art, architecture and sculpture - began to be called the fine arts.

''They were distinguished from the practical design for more mundane things, like furniture, the things that went inside the architecture. This particularly changed in the 18th and 19th century. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, you had what was called industrial design.

''That is regarded as distinct from art, inasmuch as it is design for something else, whereas in art you are doing the actual thing. You paint a painting, but in design you design a chair, say. So what you are designing is not the actual thing, the thing is made as a result of the design.''

However, the distinctions are not clear.

''Artists often think of themselves as not doing design, where of course many artists are actually doing drawings in order to make paintings. So there is often a design element in the art that they make.''


The symposium

• The Art and Design Symposium, at the Dunedin School of Art, is on October 16-17.

• The ''Art and Design: Exhibition'', at the Otago Museum H. D. Skinner Annex, opens on Wednesday and runs until October 21, midday to 3pm.


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