Carrie Reichardt – Mad In England

Here’s my art prediction for the next decade…the next big thing in the UK will be Craftivism.

This statement made by Carrie Reichardt on her website is a good starting point when talking about her exhibition at Ink’d, as well as discussing the role that craft plays in the creative world today.

The craft/art debate has long been raging between the two practices. Craft has often been seen as a lesser pursuit, therefore unworthy of the gallery space and large price tag that, say, a shark in formaldehyde can command. However, the use of craft techniques by high profile artists such as Tracy Emin and Grayson Perry has blurred the boundaries between the two. These days it is perfectly acceptable to be a potter and an artist.

In addition to craft techniques being used to create art, craft has also been absorbed into the world of activism. You are all probably aware of guerrilla knitting. Carrie introduces ceramics to the scene. Her work has ties with street art – she defaces objects with images and slogans, sometimes abusive but frequently humorous.

At Ink’d, Carrie takes iconic imagery that defines Britishness, such as the vintage aesthetic of floral cups and saucers, and subverts them by defacing them. She transfers images onto plates or adds words and sayings. One driving force in the show is her reaction to the British establishment, and the pinnacle of this, the royal family. Carrie’s ‘Fuck Right Off’ mugs mock the royal memorabilia that is currently adorned with the smiling faces of Kate’n’Wills.

Where the craftivism/graffiti influence really shines through is with Carrie’s ceramic spray cans.  She slipcasts the cans then covers them with imagery, associated with pop culture and anarchy.  Her reason for using cans is that she seems them as “a universal symbol of resistance.” In the context of the exhibition they work really well. My favourites were the cans that have been bent out of shape. It is easy to imagine them being used up in an act of vandalism, crushed underfoot and discarded, only for Carrie to come along and add another layer of meaning to them.

There is one problem with introducing activism to the art world. It is what I like to call the Banksy paradox. For someone who is the embodiment of street art and graffiti, he’s not so much rebelling against the system as being a fully paid up member – he had an Oscar nomination for God’s sake! My point is that it is all too easy to be seen as selling-out when your work becomes a ‘work of art’. Luckily, Mad in England still has its anarchist soul intact. Whether you are a punk or a potter, Carrie will put a smile on your face.

Where: Ink’d, Brighton www.ink-d.co.uk

When: 11 March – 10 April 2011