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Behaviour pattern

Zannah Chisholm describes the exciting creative process that took place when an artist teamed up with children to turn their play into art.

Mosaics are fairly common these days in primary schools, but this summer the Devon Arts In Schools Initiative (DAISI) created one with a difference.

EDF Energy commissioned DAISI to work with six artists and six schools to create art for their new office building in Exeter. Emma Spring, a mosaic artist worked for seven days at Brampford Speke Primary School. Together, artist and pupils created three works installed in the new EDF Energy offices and two for the school to keep. "I decided to interpret natural energy, as the energy children use at play," says Emma Spring. "By applying a co-ordinated, rational method to recording their movements and nature of activity I envisaged the mosaic outcome as being a synthesis of science and art."

Using measuring tapes and chalk, the children helped her lay out a numbered and lettered grid on concrete. Each child was given a copy of the grid and asked to play football, basketball and other games, as they would normally.

When a bell rang they had to stop and record their position and what they were playing. The process was repeated five times over 90 minutes. This represented an extended playtime, resulting in changes in the choice of activity that did not occur during the usual, much shorter period.

The results were used to create two mosaics - the first charting five "movements" per child and the second depicting the transition from one game to another. Each child's position was described by a coloured dot. The colour indicated the activity, their movements were depicted by straight lines linking their positions over time and each dot's position was visually emphasised by concentric rings. All this spatial information translated well into the physical medium of mosaic - the pattern formed having its own energy even without knowing the processes involved.

The children had measured and observed, and recorded and collated information. Involved in an artwork, which called for a degree of abstraction, their appreciation and understanding deepened. Art projects like this can be cross-curricular, multi-disciplined, have serious intent and yet retain the vital child-engaging ingredients of fun and play.

For more information contact Emma Spring at FlameworksTel: 01752 559326DAISI Tel:01392 385214

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