Monday, 16 June 2014

Review: The Saatchi Gallery

Friday last week myself, a colleague and 30 AS Fine Art students from The Farnborough Sixth Form College ventured up to London to The Saatchi Gallery. I always love this time of year as it's great transition period to the A2 year and we thought what a perfect opportunity to look at inspiring art, generate ideas and take part in some workshops!

First on our list was a guided tour around The Saatchi at 11am. We had the privilege of being shown a selection of work from their new exhibition: 'Pangaea: New Art From Africa and Latin America'. The most striking piece of work was without doubt artist Rafael Gómezbarros work entitled 'Casa Tomada'. The students and myself were in awe of the space and couldn't take our eyes of the packs of giant ants filling the room around us. For those of you who don't know, the ant's bodies are actually made up of two human skull casts which sent a shiver down everyone's back! The work really made the student's think about what life consists of and that each ant's body could of represented them.

We were also shown the work of their youngest artist in the gallery Ibrahim Mahama and after climbing up to gallery space 10 we were not dissapointed. Ibrahim is 26 and his work is familiar to that of Christo. He normally produces land art and was specially commissioner to fill the room in the gallery with draped jute sacks. Each sack represents the demands of goods such as cocoa and symbolises the difficult conditions traders face in African markets. The installation is set in a dull-lit wooden room with each sack dissembled. At first glance you are overwhelmed by the pure size of the installation and then you begin to notice the small imperfections, marks and traces that each cocoa sack hold. The students were completely silent and everyone took in the reality of what lives as porters must be like in our current economy.

Lastly, we were shown the work by Oscar Murillo - the galleries second youngest artist. Again, food was a common theme within Oscar's work and his expressive works were familiar to that of Rauschenberg's collages. Oscar Murillo was born in Colombia and at a young age emigrated to London: his work encompasses the difficulties of conforming to a new culture and changing his mother tongue. Before working on each piece Oscar likes to create a dirty canvas by leaving his assemblages of recycled materials on the floor for people to walk on to - or simply to collect dust and dirt. When the students looked closely they began to see basketball traces on the walls and hidden messages in the form of QR codes which was great fun scanning on our phones!

The Education team at The Saatchi were fantastic and made the experience of a gallery visit fun for all. The tour was informative and inquisitive and inspired the students for the artist workshop which was our next step with artist Daryll Hawkins. Daryll immediately took us up to the top floor to see the work of artist David Koloane. The students were asked what age they thought the artist was and all were shocked at the response of 76. Koloane's work is expressive and have somewhat a naivety to them. The marks and colour are worked up into an electrifying beauty that represents the everyday buzz of commuting, high speed traffic and mass protests within his home country South Africa. Student's responded well to Daryll's demonstration of Diskiology II and began to create their own A1 responses to Koloane's work in charcoal and pastel. The student's listened to music from Spotify and asked Daryll questions about art school and what to expect. They responded well to an artist approach and really enjoyed creating artwork that wasn't part of their own assessment - it was a real pleasure to see my class of 2014 engage so much with materials!

The day ended with a final workshop ran by the Education Team at the gallery. I was expecting a theoretical based workshop so was pleasantly surprised to find out it was another practical session! This time round student's got to re-cap the work of Oscar Murillo and presented on the floor in front of them was a pile of plain paper. Student's were asked to work collaboratively to create their own distorted canvas and then ... (yep - you guessed it!) ... their own dirty canvas. They crushed charcoal with their feet before jumping, stamping and dancing on top of the joint canvas.


It was fantastic to see them all enjoy themselves and learn a new engaging process. After all that exercising students worked in small groups to create their own art work based on a food. The student's loved working as a group - something which can rarely be done in the classroom and groups embraced sharing issues they face/d with language, culture and icons. One student even decided to use her left over Capri-Sun from lunch and cut into the existing artwork! Students were questioned into the meaning behind their piece and asked to title their work before ending the day at 2:30pm.

Overall, the day was a truly inspiring and fun experience. The Education Team were fab and fully supported the students all day - stretching their learning where possible. My student's learnt new experiences that I hope they will extract into their own work in the classroom and it was great to see them view real artwork in a beautiful and accommodating gallery. I would highly recommend taking your student's to The Saatchi if you haven't already - exhibitions are free and we only had to pay for the first artist workshop (which was definately worth the price!) They even link the Art and Design exam themes to their exhibitions so if you're running out of time now to make a visit then I would jump at the chance to go with your students in February. I left feeling inspired and can't wait to test my observations of the day with my classes!
- Kirsty

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