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Contemporary Applied Art Essay



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What is Contemporary Applied Art (Ceramics, Glass, Textiles)?

Contemporary Applied Art encourages fresh ideas, inventive use of materials and techniques, and offers students the opportunity to critically engage with current practice. The course combines studio projects with practical workshop based sessions, alongside contextual academic studies where ideas, historical reference and making are integrated.

About the programme

CR210 Course Location: CIT Crawford College of Art & Design, Department of Fine Art & Applied Art.

This is an innovative interdisciplinary programme with an emphasis in three main material areas, Ceramics, Glass, and Textiles, either as a chosen specialism, or in combination. It offers students the opportunity to creatively develop and make objects. The emphasis is on an open and experimental exploration grounded in historical context and current critical debate about contemporary practice. This course offers a creative and playful approach to materials and idea development with a strong emphasis on practical skills, conceptual development and self-directed exploration.

The delivery of this course is modular and centred on ‘thinking through making’ including: skills development workshops, lectures, group seminars, tutorials, peer and independent learning. In their final year students will be expected to develop and execute an original body of work to a high standard and undertake a written thesis which explores the intellectual aspects and implications of the work. In the final year also, students undertake a professional practice module, which is delivered by an international curator to teach students how to present their work to the professional world.

Students are encouraged to pursue opportunities within the programme for international exchange and placement. The College has extensive facilities; excellent specialised workshops, digital labs, individual studio space, and a specialised visual arts library; which with the experienced artist and educator lecturing staff makes the College a vibrant place to study and grow.

First year at a glance

The first year of study introduces students to Ceramics, Glass & Textiles through skills development workshops. The academic lectures & seminars teach the histories and contemporary theories that inform object-making. Students undertake modules: Introduction to Art Processes, Drawing, 3D Elements, Applied Art Studio practice, and Art History. Teaching is delivered through workshops, lectures, group seminars, tutorials, and peer and independent learning. 

Further Studies

Qualified Honours Degree graduates are eligible to apply for admission to

Graduates who have also completed a foundation level course in Art Therapy are eligible for admission to

Graduates are also encouraged to continue their studies at postgraduate level to MA by research and PhD.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the typical student numbers in first year?
In the first semester, Contemporary Applied Art and Fine Art students share all modules. Students will be part of a large dynamic first year group and in the second semester will begin inductions into Ceramic, Glass & Textiles workshops where class size will be approx 15.

Is there any written exam?
There are no sit-down exams. However, there are many academic modules where assessment is in essay, report, seminar paper/thesis format.

Does the College provide all the materials for coursework?
Materials for course work are available through the College. Students are asked to contribute for materials annually.

Graduate Profiles

Luke Sisk

"Studying at CCAD helped me to find out a lot about myself, and more importantly what sort of career and lifestyle I want to pursue. It opened a lot of opportunities to travel and to make connections with people from all walks of life, and all parts of the world.

I am an independent professional artist and also work as a part time technician in CCAD Applied Art Workshops. I am based in the Backwater Studios on Wandesford Quay, where I make both glass and ceramic pieces for exhibition, as well as working to commission on a regular basis. The commission based work varies from custom ware for cafes to wedding gifts, which helps to fund the more sculptural work I then make for exhibiting. After going to CCAD I realised that I am happiest when I’m making, and seeing other people enjoy what I make.

Be open to all advice… and criticism. The tutors are there to guide you, they will see things in you that you can’t see. Try as many different things as you can while you have the opportunity, the more skills and techniques you can learn while there, the better. When the challenge is no longer fun, throw it all in the bin and start something else!"

Peter Martin
Visual Artist

“When you enter the CCAD you enter a community, a community both supportive and challenging. My time studying Contemporary Applied Art (and Fine Art) was integral to my development as a visual artist. Not only was the attention put on research and concept, but the practical skills and techniques which I learned from the lecturers and tutors have proven invaluable to me in the progression of my career after college.

The exchange programme to Shanghai University Glass Department opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of the art world internationally and has left a hugely important impression on me. Most significantly, the guidance, openness and encouragement of my tutors assisted me in finding my own path towards my future career.”


Kevin Callaghan

“I completed my degree at CIT CCAD in 2010. I found that the experienced tutors promoted my thirst for experimentation and research and I built a dynamic relationship with the lecturers and my peer group. Processes, exploration, and productivity are foremost in Contemporary Applied Art. This positive and creative environment is the perfect place to grow.”

Kevin has worked independently and exhibited many times since completing his degree programme. He has recently completed a postgraduate Masters in Ceramics and Glass at The Royal College of Art, London.





Not to be confused with Modern art.

Contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the late 20th century or in the 21st century. Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world. Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that challenge traditional boundaries and defy easy definition. Diverse and eclectic, contemporary art as a whole is distinguished by the very lack of a uniform, organising principle, ideology, or ‘ism.’ Contemporary art is part of a cultural dialogue that concerns larger contextual frameworks such as personal and cultural identity, family, community, and nationality.[citation needed][not verified in body]

In vernacular English, "modern" and "contemporary" are synonyms, resulting in some conflation of the terms "modern art" and "contemporary art" by non-specialists.[1]


Some define contemporary art as art produced within "our lifetime," recognising that lifetimes and life spans vary. However, there is a recognition that this generic definition is subject to specialized limitations.[2]

The classification of "contemporary art" as a special type of art, rather than a general adjectival phrase, goes back to the beginnings of Modernism in the English-speaking world. In London, the Contemporary Art Society was founded in 1910 by the critic Roger Fry and others, as a private society for buying works of art to place in public museums.[3] A number of other institutions using the term were founded in the 1930s, such as in 1938 the Contemporary Art Society of Adelaide, Australia,[4] and an increasing number after 1945.[5] Many, like the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston changed their names from ones using "Modern art" in this period, as Modernism became defined as a historical art movement, and much "modern" art ceased to be "contemporary". The definition of what is contemporary is naturally always on the move, anchored in the present with a start date that moves forward, and the works the Contemporary Art Society bought in 1910 could no longer be described as contemporary.

Particular points that have been seen as marking a change in art styles include the end of World War II and the 1960s. There has perhaps been a lack of natural break points since the 1960s, and definitions of what constitutes "contemporary art" in the 2010s vary, and are mostly imprecise. Art from the past 20 years is very likely to be included, and definitions often include art going back to about 1970;[6] "the art of the late 20th and early 21st century";[7] "the art of the late 20th cent. and early 21st cent., both an outgrowth and a rejection of modern art";[8] "Strictly speaking, the term "contemporary art" refers to art made and produced by artists living today";[9] "Art from the 1960s or [19]70s up until this very minute";[10] and sometimes further, especially in museum contexts, as museums which form a permanent collection of contemporary art inevitably find this aging. Many use the formulation "Modern and Contemporary Art", which avoids this problem.[11] Smaller commercial galleries, magazines and other sources may use stricter definitions, perhaps restricting the "contemporary" to work from 2000 onwards. Artists who are still productive after a long career, and ongoing art movements, may present a particular issue; galleries and critics are often reluctant to divide their work between the contemporary and non-contemporary.[citation needed]

Sociologist Nathalie Heinich draws a distinction between modern and contemporary art, describing them as two different paradigms which partially overlap historically. She found that while "modern art" challenges the conventions of representation, "contemporary art" challenges the very notion of an artwork.[12] She regards Duchamp's Fountain (which was made in the 1910s in the midst of the triumph of modern art) as the starting point of contemporary art, which gained momentum after World War II with Gutai's performances, Yves Klein's monochromes and Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning Drawing. [13]


One of the difficulties many people have in approaching contemporary artwork is its diversity—diversity of material, form, subject matter, and even time periods. It is "distinguished by the very lack of a uniform organizing principle, ideology, or -ism"[14] that we so often see in other, and oftentimes more familiar, art periods and movements. Broadly speaking, we see Modernism as looking at modernist principles—the focus of the work is self-referential, investigating its own materials (investigations of line, shape, color, form). Likewise, Impressionism looks at our perception of a moment through light and color as opposed to attempts at stark realism (Realism, too, is an artistic movement). Contemporary art, on the other hand, does not have one, single objective or point of view. Its view, instead, is refracted, prismatic, and multi-faceted. Reflecting the diversity of the world today, in all of its complexities, contemporary art reflects life as we know it. It can be, therefore, contradictory, confusing, and open-ended. There are, however, a number of common themes that have appeared in contemporary works. While these are not exhaustive, notable themes include: identity politics, the body, globalization and migration, technology, contemporary society and culture, time and memory, and institutional and political critique.[15]Post-modern, post-structuralist, feminist, and Marxist theory have played important roles in the development of contemporary theories of art.


The functioning of the art world is dependent on art institutions, ranging from major museums to private galleries, non-profit spaces, art schools and publishers, and the practices of individual artists, curators, writers, collectors, and philanthropists. A major division in the art world is between the for-profit and non-profit sectors, although in recent years the boundaries between for-profit private and non-profit public institutions have become increasingly blurred.[citation needed]

Most well-known contemporary art is exhibited by professional artists at commercial contemporary art galleries, by private collectors, art auctions, corporations, publicly funded arts organizations, contemporary art museums or by artists themselves in artist-run spaces. Contemporary artists are supported by grants, awards, and prizes as well as by direct sales of their work. Career artists train at art school or emerge from other fields.[citation needed]

There are close relationships between publicly funded contemporary art organizations and the commercial sector. For instance, in 2005 the book Understanding International Art Markets and Management reported that in Britain a handful of dealers represented the artists featured in leading publicly funded contemporary art museums.[16]

Outstanding books and magazines and individual collectors can wield considerable influence.[citation needed]

Corporations have also integrated themselves into the contemporary art world, exhibiting contemporary art within their premises, organizing and sponsoring contemporary art awards, and building up extensive corporate collections.[17] Corporate advertisers frequently use the prestige associated with contemporary art and coolhunting to draw the attention of consumers to luxury goods.[citation needed]

The institutions of art have been criticized for regulating what is designated as contemporary art. Outsider art, for instance, is literally contemporary art, in that it is produced in the present day. However, one critic has argued it is not considered so because the artists are self-taught and are thus assumed to be working outside of an art historical context.[18] Craft activities, such as textile design, are also excluded from the realm of contemporary art, despite large audiences for exhibitions.[19] Art critic Peter Timms has said that attention is drawn to the way that craft objects must subscribe to particular values in order to be admitted to the realm of contemporary art. "A ceramic object that is intended as a subversive comment on the nature of beauty is more likely to fit the definition of contemporary art than one that is simply beautiful."[20]

At any one time a particular place or group of artists can have a strong influence on subsequent contemporary art. For instance, The Ferus Gallery was a commercial gallery in Los Angeles and re-invigorated the Californian contemporary art scene in the late fifties and the sixties.

Public attitudes[edit]

Contemporary art can sometimes seem at odds with a public that does not feel that art and its institutions share its values.[21] In Britain, in the 1990s, contemporary art became a part of popular culture, with artists becoming stars, but this did not lead to a hoped-for "cultural utopia".[22] Some critics like Julian Spalding and Donald Kuspit have suggested that skepticism, even rejection, is a legitimate and reasonable response to much contemporary art.[23] Brian Ashbee in an essay called "Art Bollocks" criticizes "much installation art, photography, conceptual art, video and other practices generally called post-modern" as being too dependent on verbal explanations in the form of theoretical discourse.[24]


Main article: Classificatory disputes about art

A common concern since the early part of the 20th century has been the question of what constitutes art. In the contemporary period (1950 to now), the concept of avant-garde[25] may come into play in determining what art is noticed by galleries, museums, and collectors. Propaganda and entertainment in some circumstances have been regarded as art genres during the contemporary art period.[citation needed]


Some competitions, awards, and prizes in contemporary art are:


This table lists art movements and styles by decade. It should not be assumed to be conclusive.

See also[edit]


  1. ^NYU Steinhardt, Department of Art and Arts Professions, New York
  2. ^Esaak, Shelley. "What is "Contemporary" Art?". About.com. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  3. ^Fry Roger, Ed. Craufurd D. Goodwin, Art and the Market: Roger Fry on Commerce in Art, 1999, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 0472109022, 9780472109029, google books
  4. ^Also the Contemporary Arts Society of Montreal, 1939–1948
  5. ^Smith, 257–258
  6. ^Some definitions: "Art21 defines contemporary art as the work of artists who are living in the twenty-first century." Art21
  7. ^"Contemporary art - Define Contemporary art at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com. 
  8. ^"Yahoo". Yahoo. Archived from the original on 2013-07-20. 
  9. ^"About Contemporary Art (Education at the Getty)". 
  10. ^Shelley Esaak. "What is Contemporary Art?". About.com Education. 
  11. ^Examples of specializing museums include the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto. The Oxford Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art is one of many book titles to use the phrase.
  12. ^Heinich, Nathalie, Ed. Gallimard, Le paradigme de l'art contemporain : Structures d'une révolution artistique , 2014, ISBN 2070139239, 9782070139231, google books
  13. ^Nathalie Heinich lecture "Contemporary art: an artistic revolution ? at 'Agora des savoirs' 21th edition, 6 May 2015.
  14. ^Contemporary Art in Context. (2016). Retrieved December 11, 2016
  15. ^Robertson, J., & McDaniel, C. (2012). Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art after 1980 (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  16. ^Derrick Chong in Iain Robertson, Understanding International Art Markets And Management, Routledge, 2005, p95. ISBN 0-415-33956-1
  17. ^Chin-Tao Wu, Privatising Culture: Corporate Art Intervention Since the 1980s, Verso, 2002, p14. ISBN 1-85984-472-3
  18. ^Gary Alan Fine, Everyday Genius: Self-Taught Art and the Culture of Authenticity, University of Chicago Press, 2004, pp42-43. ISBN 0-226-24950-6
  19. ^Peter Dormer, The Culture of Craft: Status and Future, Manchester University Press, 1996, p175. ISBN 0-7190-4618-1
  20. ^Peter Timms, What's Wrong with Contemporary Art?, UNSW Press, 2004, p17. ISBN 0-86840-407-1
  21. ^Mary Jane Jacob and Michael Brenson, Conversations at the Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art, MIT Press, 1998, p30. ISBN 0-262-10072-X
  22. ^Julian Stallabrass, High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s, Verso, 1999, pp1-2. ISBN 1-85984-721-8
  23. ^Spalding, Julian, The Eclipse of Art: Tackling the Crisis in Art Today, Prestel Publishing, 2003. ISBN 3-7913-2881-6
  24. ^"Art Bollocks". Ipod.org.uk. 1990-05-05. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  25. ^Fred Orton & Griselda Pollock, Avant-Gardes and Partisans Reviewed. Manchester University, 1996. ISBN 0-7190-4399-9
  26. ^"Signature Art Prize - Home". Archived from the original on 2014-11-06. 
  27. ^Jindřich Chalupecký AwardArchived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine.


Further reading[edit]

  • Altshuler, B. (2013). Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions that Made Art History: 1962-2002. New York, N.Y.: Phaidon Press, ISBN 978-0714864952
  • Atkins, Robert (2013). Artspeak: A Guide To Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1945 To the Present (3rd. ed.). New York: Abbeville Press. ISBN 978-0789211514. 
  • Danto, A. C. (2013). What is art. New Haven: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300205718
  • Desai, V. N. (Ed.). (2007). Asian art history in the twenty-first century. Williamstown, Mass.: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, ISBN 978-0300125535
  • Fullerton, E. (2016). Artrage! : the story of the BritArt revolution. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, ISBN 978-0500239445
  • Gielen, Pascal (2009). The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude: Global Art, Memory and Post-Fordism. Amsterdam: Valiz, ISBN 9789078088394
  • Gompertz, W. (2013). What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Plume, ISBN 978-0142180297
  • Harris, J. (2011). Globalization and Contemporary Art. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 978-1405179508
  • Lailach, M. (2007). Land Art. London: Taschen, ISBN 978-3822856130
  • Martin, S. (2006). Video Art. (U. Grosenick, Ed.). Los Angeles: Taschen, ISBN 978-3822829509
  • Mercer, K. (2008). Exiles, diasporas & strangers. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, ISBN 978-0262633581
  • Robertson, J., & McDaniel, C. (2012). Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art after 1980 (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199797073
  • Robinson, H. (Ed.). (2015). Feminism-art-theory : an anthology 1968-2014 (2nd ed.). Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 978-1118360590
  • Stiles, Kristine and Peter Howard Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, A Sourcebook of Artists's Writings (1996), ISBN 0-520-20251-1
  • Thompson, D. (2010). The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin’s Griffin, ISBN 978-0230620599
  • Thorton, S. (2009). Seven Days in the Art World. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, ISBN 978-0393337129
  • Wallace, Isabelle Loring and Jennie Hirsh, Contemporary Art and Classical Myth. Farnham: Ashgate (2011), ISBN 978-0-7546-6974-6
  • Warr, T. (Ed.). (2012). The Artist’s Body (Revised). New York, N.Y.: Phaidon Press, ISBN 978-0714863931
  • Wilson, M. (2013). How to read contemporary art : experiencing the art of the 21st century. New York, N.Y.: Abrams, ISBN 978-1419707537

External links[edit]

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