Frames of reference

23rd June 1995 at 01:00
No one book has all the information needed to teach about art and artists departments need a library to get by. Similarly there will never be one CD-Rom suitable for every need. So it is necessary for many titles to be published offering access to a wide range of information and imagery. Art Gallery, the National Gallery CD-Rom, set high standards. Fast and easy to use, it pointed the way towards galleries on screens.

There are now four new titles designed for art departments. The Tate Gallery and Attica Cybernetics have released Investigating 20th-Century Art. In no way does it cover all aspects of art this century, but provides good starting points for discussion or individual research.

Any CD-Rom should ideally be used in conjunction with other publications either electronic or traditional. This CD is structured as five galleries: Men and Women, Pop Art, Hepworth, Modern British Sculpture, and Dynamism. Each has a number of high-quality examples which can be zoomed in on for better detail.

Although it is quite a narrow survey of "modern art", it allows easy access to some fine works. Any images contained on the disc can be placed in a "private gallery" useful for teaching purposes. Research is aided by an Archive screen containing interesting material which puts work into context. The "Workshop" option gives specific tasks which are varied and useful, but are mostly aimed at older students. The accompanying text uses clear, unobtrusive language - which can be spoken if required. There is also a more detailed text option. Useful teachers' notes give ideas for different approaches.

Great Artists, again by Attica, has an equally high-quality feel. Produced in conjunction with the National Gallery, it offers a wide range of examples of first-class painting and drawing. Written information on the works is succinct and clear, with much more detailed information given by voice-over, which you can listen to while zooming in to different parts of the work. The workshop allows any two paintings to be placed on the screen at once, so comparisons can be made. Colour allows warmer or cooler hues to be tried. Sketch helps analysis of the composition by allowing lines to be drawn on to pictures. Video sequences about things like picture restoration are also included. A Time Line and Art Atlas allow access to information in different ways, and paintings can also be sorted into topics.

A different approach is provided by AVP, whose Picturebase system has hundreds of examples of high-quality images. Impressionism to the 20th Century shows the transition from the 1880s through to the early 20th-century. It can be viewed sequentially, or accessed via the index. This programme is far less slick much more a work-orientated, no-frills approach. Consequently it is less intuitive and the language which can also be spoken is not easy for younger pupils. However, there is an additional box provided which allows text to be added and locked in, so, with a little work, the program can be tailor-made for any age-group.A Picture Trail can also be created which allows appropriate combinations of image to be selected.

Another Picturebase title is Art in the National Curriculum which has a wealth of images, including animals and insects, flowers, landscapes and portraits using examples of art from different times and cultures. This good idea suffers from a lack of focus it seems to be a fairly arbitrary collection of imagery. It could, however, prove to be useful when students are starting topic work.

As with books, there are always limitations with CDs. Apart from Art in the National Curriculum, no non-European art is shown, and most work, apart from this title and Investigating 20th-Century Art, is painting and drawing. There is some video present on these CDs, but none which "walks" around a sculpture. With CD-Roms continuing to make inroads into art departments, each of these titles provides useful material in easily accessible form. Reproduction quality is high, with thought-provoking text. Now is surely the time for designers and authors to think in less general terms. CD-Roms with very specific focus a detailed and interactive biography of Picasso for example must surely be a sensible way forward for this technology.

Great Artists

Investigating 20th-Century Art

Art CD-Roms for Research Machines and IBM and compatible Multimedia PCs, Pounds 39.99 and Pounds 99 respectively (prices ex VAT)Attica Cybernetics, Unit Two, Kings Meadow, Ferry Hinksey Road, Oxford OX2 0DP. Tel: 01865 791346

* Impressionism to the 20th Century

Art in the National Curriculum

Art CD-Roms for Acorn or Research Machines and IBM and compatible computers, both Pounds 75 (ex VAT)AVP, School Hill Centre, Chepstow, Gwent NP6 5PH. Tel: 01291 625439

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