The debate between art (that's fine art as in painting and sculpture) and craft (the more useful arts like furniture-making and ceramics) is an old and largely pointless one which, I'm sure, doesn't cause either Jim Partridge or Kate Blee too much concern. He works with wood; she with textiles, and they're both too good at what they do to worry about the terminology. It is, however, one of the art world's larger stupidities that things with a practical purpose (you can sit on or at some of Partridge's larger pieces and wear some of Blee's smaller ones) are often seen as humble cousins to works that offer a purely visual pleasure.
This is nonsense, of course, but it's the sort of nonsense that sticks and so their work is undervalued. Sure, Partridge is a fine craftsman: a maker of tables and turner of bowls, but at heart he's a sculptor of the highest order. His forms are simple; carved and gouged from fallen oak and scorched or limed, and often coloured on the inside. All his work, even the smallest bowls, have a great physical presence, but with this comes a lightness and a poise more usually associated with Eastern cultures. On the evidence of a new exhibition, which has just opened in London, he's a major artist.
Partridge shares the show with Kate Blee and it's a neat pairing, his monumentality offset by the delicacy of her painted silks and wools. If she worked on canvas she'd doubtless have a reputation as one of our better abstract painters, but as it is you can pick up a decent sized work for a few hundred pounds. And yes, if you want, you can wear it.
Jim Partridge & Kate Blee, Contemporary Applied Arts, 2 Percy Street, London WI (0171-436 23344) to 1 NovReuse content