Pupils see art in a different light

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
A loan of original art to a secondary school for half a term has boosted creativity among the pupils, writes Katrina Tweedie

Twenty original paintings worth thousands of pounds have been on display in a Glasgow school as part of a business-sponsored programme to make art more inclusive.

Rosshall Academy is the first school to participate in the Provident Financial's Take Art community project, in which a specially chosen selection of paintings from a collection owned by the international financial services group are on display at a secondary school for a six-week period in the hope that they will be used to inspire art, music, poetry and prose writing, providing learning resources for topics across the curriculum.

The works of art, by internationally recognised contemporary artists, include George Hainsworth's Yellow Chrysanthemums, Roman Franta's Beetles, Maxwell Doig's Welding Mask Behind Metal Plate and Mary Lord's Into the Pennines.

Pupils from the art and English departments, specifically, have been active in producing written and artistic responses to the collection, which was on display until this week for the whole school to view.

The project also gave the pupils the chance to participate in workshops led by the company's art curator, John Sheeran, and local artist Simon Laurie, encouraging them to understand the relevance of the paintings to their own lives and encourage their own creativity using a variety of media.

Laurie, whose own work is included in the collection, was impressed by the enthusiastic reaction from pupils in all years.

As a third year art class demonstrate their own collage work using dark and light tones, inspired by one of the images on display in the school corridor, Laurie says: "It has engaged the pupils and they have been able to produce work which is probably far more sophisticated than they would normally be doing at this stage. They have had to upscale their drawings and talk about composition. Much of the work being produced is extremely impressive."

Willie Nelson, the principal teacher of art and design at the Pollock-based school, says: "While it is always best to take pupils out to see work, that normally means only a selected few can go. It would not have been possible to take, for instance, the whole of the third year out to see an exhibition as they have been able to do in this case.

"These paintings have been noticed by the whole school and staff have appreciated the artwork being there. It adds to the atmosphere within the school and brightens it up."

The artworks employ a variety of media - oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas, oil on board, mixed media - are have, in turn, encouraged the pupils to explore new styles in the classroom.

"Once the students understand that other methods are not as easy as they look in a painting and once the techniques are demonstrated, they can engage more and it allows them to become involved in the process very quickly," says Mr Ross.

"We think it is very important to bring as many artists and designers, including former pupils who are now artists, into the department as often as possible to try to let the pupils see what life is like as an artist.

"This project has been particularly good because they can see a wide variety of paintings. We are now hoping they will lend us a small exhibition every year."

Now that the exhibition is over, the pupils' own artwork produced during the project will be framed and exhibited in its place.

English pupils also responded positively to the professional works on display, preparing oral and written responses to their perceptions of the art.

Steven Slater, 13, says: "I compared two paintings, talking about the different styles, images and themes. It changed the way I looked at the pictures; I studied them rather than glance and walk by, as you often do."

Pupils also discussed and compared other art forms, such as music and film, and the strength of the reactions they invoke.

The Take Art exhibition will now travel to London, Dublin and Sunderland.

Rachel Brown, of Provident Financial, said: "These paintings hang in our offices but as part of our community programme we decided to take them out in a roadshow.

"In conjunction with each school, our curator chose a cross-section of styles from our collection, which numbers over 500. Some schools have chosen styles reflecting ongoing projects but all the children benefit from learning that there is more to modern painting techniques than first meets the eye."

This is the second Provident Financial arts programme undertaken at Rosshall Academy. Two years ago, as part of the hugely successful Talking Pictures project, the company funded gallery and museum trips for pupils, then provided the raw materials for them to create their own artwork.

The Bradford-based company's next educational programme to come to Scotland will be Making an Impression, an arts and drama initiative for primary pupils. A professional storyteller and an artist will be visiting an Edinburgh school for three days in February.

For more about Provident Financial's education programme contact Sheeran Lock Ltd, tel 01728 621126www.sheeranlock.com

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