Art beat;Arts

Heather Neill

You've got to draw the line somewhere. Where, in the case of the artist is not, of course, arbitrary, although in some of Kandinsky's post figurative and pre-Bauhaus work you might think so. In the Royal Academy's revealing exhibition of his "watercolours and other works on paper", you can watch the artist at work, captured in a black and white film made in 1929. "Seems easy enough to do," said a voice behind me as the brush deftly, unhesitatingly built up an image from lines, curves and cross-hatching, apparently organically.

And therein lies Kandinsky's appeal. Born in Moscow, later a German citizen and then a refugee from the Nazis in Paris, he is billed as having played a pivotal role in the development of abstraction, but there is an attractive fluidity about much of his work, even when he employs ruler and compasses.

This exhibition traces his development as an artist from the charming but traditional woodcuts to the disciplined line and riotous colour for which he is better known. So clear was he in his search for "the expression of ideas and feeling by means of pure colours and forms" that many of the works, often combining ink and watercolour, are untitled. Little in Kandinsky's work reflects the events going on around him - he lived through the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and the Second World War - but "Gloomy Situation", a watercolour dated 1933 and depicting black bulbous shapes, betrays the artist's mood. It was painted not long after the Bauhaus in Berlin, the famous school for art, craft and design where Kandinsky taught, was dissolved. Soon afterwards, as Nazism took hold, he left for Paris.

There will be lunch-time and evening lectures, including "Kandinsky in Focus" on May 21 when the composer Michael Nyman joins a panel to explore various aspects of the music-loving artist's career. An adult study day on May 15 will consider differing approaches to abstraction in the 20th century. The education department can book talks and visits for schools and there is a teacher's pack with background information and suggested themes for the classroom. Information, tel: 0171 300 5732.

The Prince of Wales watched young artists at work in Manchester last week. At Manchester Grammar School, he admired pottery and paintings in the spacious purpose-built art department. In one class, 14 and 15-year-olds were learning about perspective from drawings by Egon Schiele, whose paintings the Prince recommended.

In the school library Alan Garner, celebrated author of Elidor and The Owl Service, described his new work, Holly from the Bongs, a triptych based on the Cheshire Mystery plays, which the school will present at the Library Theatre in Manchester in July and then take to the Edinburgh Fringe in August. The three-part piece ends with Pentecost, when the creed is spoken in Cheshire dialect and then in 12 other languages. A genuine "speaking in tongues". As to whether Mr Garner will see his play on stage, the answer is probably, but he is feeling somewhat preoccupied as "the waters have just broken" on his next idea, a novel. For adults or children? "That," says the author, "is the most difficult question to answer." Proceeds from Holly from the Bongs will go towards the school's bursary appeal, which is designed to replace the old assisted-places scheme. (Library Theatre: 0161 236 7110) Later that day, at Ducie High School in Moss Side, the prince saw students making African masks and a colourful poster, designed in the school and destined for a local hospital. He also joined a poetry class, sitting at a long table between two teenage girls who read him their work. Funded by the novelist Susan Hill, a group of 16 students from Ducie goes to the Arvon Foundation's Lumb Bank centre in Yorkshire each year to take part in a week of poetry workshops. All the pupils and their teachers said they found the experience inspired experiment and renewed confidence (Arvon Foundation: 01409 231338).

Before the Prince of Wales left Ducie, he obligingly took a lesson in African drums from Dominique Browne and Nicole Cunningham, two pupils from Royce Primary, one of the feeder schools. They agreed that, with a bit of practice, he'd make a reasonable drummer. Then they got back to the serious business of playing African rhythms with their band.

Young people's artwork has suddenly blossomed in an otherwise dull pedestrian underpass near The TES offices. Pupils from several east London primaries have contributed work, some of it based on local landmarks such as the Tower of London, some depicting animals, birds or other pupils. Transformed into permanent wall panels with the aid of business funding, these 90 colourful pieces cheer up the route to work immensely.

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Heather Neill

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