I have just returned from a few short weeks experiencing hospitality in the United Kingdom. Other than the wonderful hospitality I have had a wonderful opportunity to intimately explore the forests,country lanes and fields of Kent. Not to mention a number old country pubs but that another story.
My visit included a couple of days exploring the 'new' Tate, the 'old Tate' and the National Gallery experiencing, close up, painting I have only ever seen in art books.
|looking at art with friend Marion Keeble|
One of my favourite artist is David Hockney one of Britain's greatest living artist. Hockney came into public notice in a Young Contemporaries Exhibition in 1961.
Hockney's skill has been his ability to make fresh pictures many based on real technical skill. While I was in England I picked up on an newspaper interview with Hockney and feel some of his ideas are worth sharing with educators.
Hockney began his interest in art playing around with drawing exploring a range of media when really young as do most young people. Young people, Hockney says, all want to draw something that's in front of them which he suggests they have a deep desire to depict what they see. Children and artists gain great pleasure making and looking at pictures and this desire to capture images goes as far back as the cave artists.
It is a shame in our literacy orientated schools that all forms of art are not taken seriously as they might except by those teachers who retain a more creative approach to learning.
As with all artists Hockney faced the challenge of developing his own style. In the arts, as in every other human endeavor, it all too easy to fall in line with whatever is the current school of painting. In his early days Abstract Expressionism was all the rage but Hockney developed his own approach. There is a message here for teachers who also can too easily fall in line with current expectations and in the process lose their own individuality.
Photography seems to have put paid to realistic paintings.Hockney set about searching for ways of depicting the world in ways different to the way the camera sees things. His aim was to paint the things that camera couldn't capture. He has called his approach " obsessive naturalism".For a while he used photographs assist him in developing his art but eventually he believes photography has deeply affected the way we see things, making us take for granted the exciting things we see; images are all too easily produced.For example all art movements do the same thing - Impressionist painting made us appreciate the ephemeral play of light in the environment.
Artists see things personally- they are able to paint what cannot be seen. Picasso could paint the human figure in ways beyond any camera.
One of the basic motivations of Hockney is enjoying the act of seeing and in this area his ideas are relevant to those who help young people 'seek, use and create their own knowledge'as the New Zealand Curriculum states. And in this respect every child's art should reflect the personal style of the young artist.
Drawing makes you, Hockney says, 'look and ask questions about what you are seeing all the time. Drawing makes you see things clearer and clearer and clearer still.' The image, he says, passes into your brain , into your memory until it is recreated by your hands ( or through poetry, movement music or dance).
Artists like Hockney ,and young people gain intense pleasure from looking and creating. Hockney talks about the joy of noticing and believes not everyone get the same satisfaction. Maybe more children would also experience this joy if schools valued education through looking and creating - it is important to appreciate that such intense experiences lead to enriched vocabularies. Looking he believes is a positive act and has to be done deliberately - too many young children look but do not see.
As Hockney creates each action provides motivation for further actions and models the very way humans think - creating understanding as they go along and not having the finished product all set in the mind. We understand the present by comparing it with the past adding to ideas as we go along. And of course things change with different perspectives and at different times. This is in contrast to photographs which captures an instant in time. Painting, in contrast, can take several hours to complete -changing all the time as the art work evolves. Hockney has experimented with making art through collages of photographs in an attempt to fuse photography and art.
In classrooms children can capture images and ideas through digital photography to assist their memories but back in school these images can be re-interpreted in a range of ways from the real to the imaginary. And as part of the process of creation involve words and other forms of creativity.
Art is a valuable way of interpreting the world and ought to be seen as important as traditional literacy.
Before the word must come the experience.
Too many children have restricted vocabularies which limits their literacy growth - perhaps digging deeply into experiences might provide the very thing such children are lacking?