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John Ruskin was the most surprising discovery during my MA at Goldsmiths. Here's a short section from an essay I wrote about ArtisticInfluences there.

Ruskin has been the most surprising discovery this year. I was attracted to him by reading a quote : “You must either make a tool of the creature or a man if him. You cannot make both.” TheStonesOfVenice

Controlling for the terminology of its day, it is easy to read a sentiment that speaks to my growing interest in “good” (non alienated, self-actualizing, socially valuable, skilled) work as a political ideal.

Three things from Ruskin impressed me particularly.

  • 1) His ideal of the Gothic, an aesthetic who's beauty derives not from constrained regulation of the craftsman, but from allowing him to strive for his best even at risk of failure.
  • 2) Ruskin's surprisingly modern-sounding demand for ethical consumerism, as he divides products into those whose production is beneficial to the maker versus those which are harmful.
  • 3) An amusing episode where Ruskin goes to Tunbridge Wells to talk about iron and harangues his audience with a rant against the evils of iron railings : a discourse which manages to weave together material, architectural form and social effects, highlighting their interconnectedness. (Compare DefensiveArchitecture)

See also :