Art for all ages

Martin Child

THE ART BBC2, Thursdays 9.25-9.45am, repeated Summer 1997 Wednesdays ll.20-ll.40am Age range: 11-16.

David Mach is not a conventional artist. "We make stuff which jumps off the wall and bites you on the arse," he says. His sculptures, constructed with everyday objects, are far from traditional. From a life-sized submarine made from thousands of car tyres to masks made of matches, he is able to turn the everyday into something extraordinary.

In a new series, The Art, we see Mach constructing a huge installation made from piles of magazines. This may sound mundane, but the result is stunning.

The five 20-minute programmes each have a theme: "The Art of Recycling", "Cities", "People and Places", "Drawing", and "Identity". Each consists of three films about individual artists talking through work in progress. All of a high calibre, the artists explain clearly the thinking behind their work. They include painters, sculptors, ceramicists, textile artists, installation artists, a photographer and illustration students.

It is not only David Mach's work which jumps off the wall. The range and quality of all the work presented is exceptionally strong. There are exquisitely detailed tin sculptures which Lucy Casson makes from scraps; the lively textiles of Nicola Klileen; wire, sculpted into intricate three-dimensional drawings of fish, by Tom Hill; emotionally charged portraits by Justine Mortimer; a modern-day Madonna and Child photographed by Falsal Abdu'allah; and the steel sculptures inspired by life in Nigeria and south-east London, constructed by Sokari Douglas Camp. And these are just a few of the exciting works on show.

Although some are stronger in content than others, the films are perfectly pitched for student consumption. All pupils are sure to have seen "real" art in books, on television or in galleries, but the chances are that this will have been produced a few decades, or even a few hundred years, ago. To be shown that art is a living thing, that there are many artists around producing innovative and challenging work, is of huge value to pupils. This series will certainly help foster an understanding of what makes an artist tick.

The BBC suggests a target age range of 11-16, but I believe that this should be extended to include sixth-form students who will readily relate to the artists and the exciting work shown. The films would be equally valuable for 11-year-olds.

The series aims to fulfil three clear functions. First, a short film showing an artist working can provide an excellent springboard for discussion, offering an insight into the diverse ways in which artists work. Second, used selectively, some of the processes demonstrated will provide a stimulus for pupils' own creative work. Third, as each set of three films is thematic, showing a whole programme will suggest varied approaches to a given topic.

I strongly recommend recording all of these sharply focused, lively, programmes. They will provide a high-quality library about contemporary artists to use in the classroom as and when appropriate. I am sure that some will be shown often. They are certain to inspire, encouraging students at all levels to create work with a bite of its own.

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