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Bernard Smith

In their own words

Recorded 1975

Bernard Smith
Audio: 2 minutes

It’s always seemed odd to me that the artist is the only professional that we train in our society that we do not expect to occupy a position say 12 months after he completes his training, or her training, nor indeed does the artist. It’s a kind of romantic thing, a kind of romantic conspiracy, they just do this and then they do their best one way or another. Now, I’d like to think that we could employ professional artists in workshops, in communities, where they’d have time to do some of their own work and also were involved in some way with the art needs of their local neighbourhood, whether it were teaching latch-key children or housewives or pensioners or whatever. Not so much that they haven’t got time for their own work but a situation in which they could actually be responsible to a limited number of people in the community whilst doing their own work. What I’d like to see in other words, is the abolition of the distinction between the professional artist and the art teacher, so that we only teach one professional who is both an artist and a teacher, but is a professional artist and is a teacher. It was that way once. Artists of the Renaissance were both artists and teachers.

The other great distinction that we must abolish is the distinction between artists and craftsmen. Because there’s really no, I think, basic difference. You need invention for art and you need invention for craft. I’d like to see a professional who had, say, two or three distinct abilities, say he was a good painter or sculptor, he was a good, or she was a good, person say in video or photography, and say thirdly, had some skill in textiles or ceramics. Now I think if you had people with that kind of flexibility, they could support themselves and they could also teach others to lead more meaningful lives.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Bernard Smith is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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Bernard Smith

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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