This is always an exciting exhibition – partly because it is an event: prizes are given, students are celebrated, teachers are thanked. The fine art work always has a delightfully creative and idiosyncratic approach to coursework and special studies – these sometimes materialise as miniature installations with text – but the text is well researched and written with conviction. This year there are scores of portraits in all mediums – often with added layers of artifice which destabilise the image. This is particularly the case in some of the photography portfolios. These sets and sequences show a mature mastery of the medium leading to studio portraits of subdued colour and uncomfortable mystery.
The school has been running a digital art course for several years now and students bring a knowledge of animation and flash gained in KS3 to their work in GCSE and GCE. These students do not learn software they use it to realise ideas. I was talking to two students currently at university. They said that their current courses were less imaginative and creative than their A Level. I guess this is because the course grew as an art course and is led by teachers who ask questions rather than teach software. I do think the significant thing about this work is the learning partnership between teachers and students. This is not a place where teachers instruct. The vernacular, medium and technology of animation and games is primarily owned by the students. What the teachers do is provide a commentary, purpose and validation.
In a sense the course came of age this year. The moderator was shown the display of one student as a set of small cards mounted on the board. In the corner was a URL. The moderator was told all the work was online and was given a laptop. I love that. Do have a look at the work it is, extra-ordinary, partly because it is technically clever but really because the ideas are poetic, sensitive and perfectly aligned with the medium. http://pva.joebenton.co.uk . (link to last year http://danchina.net/2010/06/chalfonts-all-singing-and-dancing-and-thinking/)
P. S. I learned that Hannah Stower will be leaving the department to take up the position of head of art in Ealing. That’s good for her but her infectious enthusiasm will be missed.