YEAR 9 RESOURCE (TC#7): A SENSE OF PLACE - MAPPING & MOVEMENTS
This resource has been designed for Year 9 teachers and students (Term 1) and links closely with Threshold Concept 7: Art is not fixed in meaning, context is everything
• Meanings of art are subject to change
• Interpretations of art are shaped by knowledge, experiences and prejudices
• Artworks as evidence from a particular time, place, sequence of events/(inter)actions
The images below have been chosen to encourage initial reflection. Consider them carefully (and how they have been arranged/curated) and then use the following questions to help discussions. You might wish to research the titles/artist names - roll over the image to reveal these. The links at the bottom of the page will also help here.
The images above have been organised in 3 horizontal rows. These might be (loosely) titled as 'Traditional', 'Modern' and 'Contemporary'. They have also been chosen for their diverse and interesting 'contexts'. 'Context' might be considered as connected information - in the form of facts, stories, perspectives, histories, associations or interpretations. Our understanding of context is shaped by our own experiences, knowledge and prejudices. Beyond straightforward facts, the context of an artwork can also be subject to change or (mis)interpretation.
- Do these rows and groupings help to further understand and connect the works, or do they raise new issues or questions? What is your understanding of 'traditional', 'modern' and 'contemporary'?
- Why do our opinions/tastes/preferences/understanding of artworks change with time?
- At first look, without further research or information, which of the artworks above do you consider the easiest to appreciate and/or understand? Is it possible for you to order these artworks from: 1. The most (seemingly) straightforward to understand, to 9. The most complex?
- How else might you be able to order your thoughts or feelings, for example, the least/most visually appealing, meaningful, skilful, thought-provoking?
- Which works would you most like to encounter in real life? How about to touch, taste, adjust, destroy, display at home (or elsewhere)?
- Which artwork (or style of work) would you consider the most familiar or popular?
- Where might these various artworks be located now? Why - and who would have decided this?
The following words might prove particularly beneficial to this project:
- Intentions, purpose, meaning, context; interpretation, influence, prejudice, accessibility; representation, symbolism, metaphor, icon(ic)
- Social/society, political, community; commission, curation, site-specific; composition, structure; balance, tension, harmony
- Visual elements: form (3 dimensional), space, texture (surface); tone (light and dark), colour, shape (flat, 2 dimensional), line (flow, weight)
In THE ARTROOM
The following slideshow supports the potential sequence of lessons set out below:
Look carefully at The Threshold Concept 7 illustration. It is divided into 2 sections. The left-hand side shows an artwork in progress - what seems to be a painting of an observed (artist palette-shaped) vase. On the right-hand side this artwork has been rotated and re-presented with a set of portraits. It now seems to be more suggestive of a face. You can read more about this illustration here.
- Divide your page into 3. In each section draw the shape of the artist palette used in the illustration. You might wish to rotate this different ways or draw it at different scales. Alternatively, you might cut these shapes out of coloured paper and stick them down.
- Now, experiment with adapting each drawing/shape to suggest alternative meanings or representations - you might work within, over, or outside of the shape adding lines, marks, new shapes, text etc. You might use words such as 'traditional', 'modern' and 'contemporary' as prompts, or perhaps 'Landscape', 'Still Life' and 'Portrait'.
- Cut out an artist palette shape - or an abstract shape of your own choosing - and experiment with photographing this in various locations, as demonstrated within this exercise here. Consider how the shape (and your perceptions of it) are influenced by different locations, colours, textures, surrounding words etc.
The slideshow above starts with two works, one by Henri Matisse (The Snail, 1953), the other by Lubaina Himid (Carpet, 1992). The works are - or may appear - remarkably simple in their use of colour and shape, but both have wider contexts that add interest and depth. Context can unite artworks and/or emphasise their differences and distinctions.
- Carefully compare artists, Henri Matisse and Lubaina Himid and their works. You might begin with definite facts - gender of artists, nationalities, time periods, materials used etc. Then, broaden this with wider research to be able to compare their influences, experiences and intentions. Present these connections and distinctions in a visually interesting way, for example as a creative diagram or map.
- Working in pairs (or a larger group) agree on a specific set and quantity of shapes (e.g. 3 squares, 2 circles and a triangle) to be used for this exercise. Once agreed, independently - without sharing - produce a series of responses using only these ingredients. These might be done with paper and pencil, cut-out paper or alternative materials. You might work in 2 and/or 3 dimensions and even utilise digital media such as film or accompanying sound. For this exercise you could also introduce a theme to attempt to tackle, represent or suggest just using the shapes decided. This could be a social or political issue, or something more tangible such as an object, person or shared location. Once complete share and display your responses together.
Time and Place
‘Brick House’ by Simone Leigh is a 16-foot-tall bronze bust of a Black woman whose torso resembles a skirt and/or clay house. The sculpture takes inspiration from a wide range of sources, past and present. You can read more about this work here. It appears as a combination of both the contemporary and the traditional - in ideas, skills and appearances - and addresses multiple themes including architecture, identity, feminism and cultural stereotyping.
- Consider these two powerful influences on your own sense of place and being: Where you live, and what you look like.
Then, with these in mind, reflect on the following questions: Where do you feel most comfortable in your own skin? Are there particular places or communities that enable you to feel your most authentic? Where could you choose to visit (in the past, present or future, and anywhere in the world) to find an alternative sense of place or, alternatively, to understand extreme displacement? How might you share this imagined experience through art, words or performed actions?
- With reference to the work displayed in the slideshow, produce a series of drawings that explore both human and architectural forms. These might relate to you and your home, your family or friends. These initial drawings might be carefully observed - representational/realistic - or they might be more abstracted and experimental. And then...
- Using these drawings as inspiration - alongside your own thoughts and opinions relating to matters of self and identity - design your own public sculpture that says something about you and your own sense of place in this time.
- How might these designs be converted from 2 to 3 dimensions (for example you might use cardboard and paper, found materials, modelling clay or 3D software)?
- How might you imaginatively locate or display this work in various locations (and contexts)? For example, through Photoshop/digital manipulation, collage or illustration?
Maps and Movements
The words, 'map' and 'movement', are most obviously associated with geographical travel, but also have plenty of relevance within an art context, for example: 'Mapping' suggests actions of planning, designing, ordering and classifying; Art 'Movements' are identified and applied to categorise and group artists, styles and philosophies within particular time periods (albeit not always with permission or agreement). Art Movements are helpful in learning art histories, but it is important to remember that established art histories have privileged some artists (predominantly white men) whilst neglecting others - in particular female, black, Asian and ethnic minority artists. In addition, it might be suggested that all artworks act as maps of sorts - records of actions (physical movements) in space and time. Artists also set out to 'move' - to impact and affect, to provoke change and move viewers to new understanding through their work.
- Artists have often produced and utilised maps for creative means. Some of the earliest art created by prehistoric man is believed to contain a map of the cosmos. The slideshow shares two works by Grayson Perry and Zarina (Hashmi). Both of these works might be considered as creative forms of mapping - ordering and visualising places, memories and experiences.
- How might you create a map as a form of self-portrait - a way of documenting your own environments, people, memories, hopes and/or experiences? What scale or shape might this take? How might you draw or design this? How might this then be developed further, perhaps into something 3-dimensional, animated or interactive?
- Many artists have been driven to radical creative action in response to injustice in the world. An artist's actions and artwork might be prominent in its time - publicly ridiculed and/or celebrated; considered unifying or divisive - or might go unnoticed or be suppressed, perhaps only coming to light within new, revised contexts. Consider slides 10-14 in the slideshow. These share examples of works that, directly or indirectly, have been driven by personal experience and conflict.
- At a time of pandemic and political unrest, of environmental crisis and social and racial injustice - how might you utilise artwork as a way of expressing your feelings and speaking truth to power? How might the images or words you choose, the marks you make, the ways in which you choose to make them etc. draw attention to an issue that you feel passionate, enraged or anxious about? How/where might you be able to share this work and message wider as a force for good?
Advance is difficult and departure from the accepted path is dangerous; but difficulty and danger are old acquaintances. Elizabeth Catlett
- Who was Edward Colston and why was his Bristol statue toppled? Guardian article, 2020
- Great Moments in Art Education History: Augusta Savage YouTube video
- The Making of Simone Leigh’s Brick House Meg Whiteford
- Lubaina Himid, Carpet, 1992 Tate Resource
- Joan Miro, Harlequin’s CarnIval, 1924-5
- Picasso, Guernica, 1937 The Khan Academy resource
- Jack Whitten, Birmingham, 1964
- Sarah VanDerBeek, Athena, 2006
- Ai Weiwei – The Sichuan earthquake & 90 tons of steel Public Delivery resource
- Home is a foreign place, Zarina Met Video resource
- Grayson Perry, Map of Nowhere, 2008
- John J Heartfield, Adolf The Superman, 1937