Musings for September 2019

Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Longside Gallery

I recently visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) which I always find inspiring.  On this occasion, at the  Longside site, there was an exhibition and an installation, both of which would, I'm sure, delight SVAG members and followers.

 

The exhibition entitled, "Frequencies," was--, " inspired by Oscar Murillo's own memories of doodling on school desks---".  For him this drawing, ---"captures small acts of rebellion, common in classrooms the world over--." The exhibition features work produced by young people who he asked  to draw on canvases spread over desks. Thus he records the "Frequency" of childhood, "across the world at this point in time."  Some of the 100 canvases were produced by local Castleford children.  The works produced are revealing, testifying to the hopes, aspirations and anxieties of young people.  The skill and creativity involved is astounding.


Many of the images are reminiscent of works of street art.  SVAG members are presently engaged with attempting to establish an archive of such street art in Sheffield.  I am sure others would see the similarities in terms of recurrent themes and, in some cases, the execution.

Above and below:  From the 'Frequencies' Exhibition

Alongside, or rather within the exhibition, is the installation, "Asking Out", a project by the artist Ruth Ewan in which she explores the work of Muriel Pyrah.  Ewan visited The National Arts Education Archive at YSP in 2010.  Archivists were keen to show her boxes of work produced by pupils of Muriel Pyrah who was an untrained teacher who taught in a Castleford primary school in the 1970's. She used radical teaching techniques which have been studied internationally .  Pyrah pioneered methods of encouraging children to articulate their ideas, particularly in relation to the natural world and the creative arts.  The installation is a recreation of Muriel Pyrah's classroom where the visitor is invited to participate in activities.  The art work on display is that produced by Pyrah's pupils and it is impressive.  An accompanying booklet offers first hand accounts from ex pupils of the classroom experience.  It is clear that this teacher could be bullying but did have a very positive impact on many and that creativity was central in her classroom.

Above and below:  Animal collages from the 'Asking Out' installation.

The visitor is invited to consider wide-ranging views on education.  For example
"I have never let schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain
"I believe in the discipline of silence and could talk for hours about it. " George Bernard Shaw.

 

I was particularly struck by Alec Clegg's words taken from, " About our schools" 1980.


"We live in a world which is growing ever more dangerously materialistic and the education we provide, instead of moderating this materialism, tends to increase it."


SVAG members will note the relevance of this as we consider the Arts Council England's future strategy priorities in relation to education.  How can we make art and culture more central to the school curriculum and in turn to our adult lives?

 

Do try to visit YSP and Longside Gallery in particular, if you haven't already done so.  There's lots of food for thought there and you may even be inspired to create an art work!

Janet Beautyman

September 2019

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