Tuesday, August 23, 2016

BA (Hons) Fine Art 2016

At the end of June 2016 my 10 Fine Art students graduated with BA (Hons) Fine Art from the Hong Kong Design Institute. It was the culmination of an exciting year for the students, most of whom I had previously taught at Higher Diploma level. The Fine Art programme was run as a collaboration between SHAPE/VTC in Hong Kong, and Birmingham City University in the UK. The structure comprised 2 years working at Higher Diploma level followed by a third year on the collaborative programme.
I had spent two years on the preparation of the programme including validation with Birmingham City University and accreditation with the Hong Kong Education Department and a third year working with the students in the studio attempting to guide the 10 students towards a successful graduation.
It is my sincere hope that at least some of them will go on to make some waves in the art field.

As a group, their work was quite diverse and I would like to illustrate it here with a few images, created in their studios at Morrison Hill in Wanchai, Hong Kong. I would like to wish them every success in the future!

Ada, Leung Nga Ting

Sharon, Choi Shu Long

Karen, Ng Hei Tung

Marlena, Yik Ka Yan

Alan, Lau Cheuk Lun

Leo, Choi Lai Yin

Ruby, Pang Hiu Man

Maggie, Cheung Lok Yi

Wesley, Kwan Tsz Him

Roni, Cheng Weng I

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Alexander Calder at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong

After being assigned to teach a module called ‘Workshop Practice II: Metal’ I learned that the Pace Gallery in Hong Kong were presenting an exhibition of work by Alexander Calder allowing my students a wonderful opportunity to see up-close how a major artist has handled metal.

The module introduced the idea of collecting discarded material such as drinks, food cans, biscuit tins and other metal ‘rubbish’, and transforming them into artworks. Although I had to teach basic skills on how to turn the metal objects into raw material, this did not take too long and once the students understood that they could manipulate the metal without harming themselves, they began to experiment during exercises I lead on cutting, rolling, folding and joining metal.

Eventually, later in the module, they then used this raw material to create artworks. I tried to guide the students to see possibilities, some serious and some fun and mischievous and also to see the metal in terms of texture and colour and I also demonstrated how to create formers to bend the metal and also wooden frames on which to pin the metal in sheets to create larger forms.

The Calder exhibition was a perfect case study as the work on show was quite small with many maquettes for larger sculptures. The students were able to examine how Calder had joined sections of metal together with rivets and how he had sometimes used metal wire to thread the pieces together.
The exhibition displayed hanging mobiles, standing mobiles and stabiles. In the centre of the gallery stood the wonderful standing mobile The Tree (1960), perfectly balanced with its large branch forming the mobile section of the work.

I really hope that I demonstrated to the students that metal can be manipulated as easily as most other materials and how it can also be found all around us without the need for a trip to the art materials supplier.

Black: Two Dots and Eleven (1958)

The Tree (1960)

7 Legged Beast (maquette) (1956)

Conical Gussets (1956)

Bleu, jaune, rouge sur base courbe (1969)

Ex-Octopus (maquette) (1936)

Black Areas (1938) - Shadow of the work on the wall

Birmingham, UK

Part of my duties as Course Leader of the BA (Hons) Fine Art programme run in collaboration with Birmingham City University was to attend ‘School Academic Board’ meetings in Birmingham during April. Although this meant that I had to take a week out in the middle of the semester creating disruption to the several modules I was teaching, it did give me the opportunity to re-visit Birmingham School of Art, located in the beautiful Margaret Street building in the heart of Birmingham. This Venetian Gothic building was opened in 1885 and was wonderfully cleaned and refurbished in 1992 (exterior) and 1996 (interior). The interior is a wonderful labyrinth of rooms and staircases and no doubt provides tremendous inspiration for the students. My own art college at Leeds (then called Jacob Kramer College of Art) also had a certain amount of this charm and atmosphere.

Interior views of Birmingham School of Art

The week actually passed quickly, the meetings were fruitful and important planning was made for next year’s schedule. During the week I even managed to hold one-to-one tutorials with several final year Fine Art students. This was a real pleasure and for me sitting down with students in front of their work to discuss practical and conceptual approaches is what teaching is all about. The students were confident, ambitious and had a clear direction. One student had already secured a place at the Ruskin School of Art and despite having produced several strong pieces of work, he was still prepared to experiment with new materials and processes.

Before it was time for me to leave Birmingham, I visited the lovely local Ikon Gallery.

Birmingham Ikon Gallery

The gallery was featuring a solo show by American Dan Flavin, giving me the chance to see a major show of his work for the first time. I had previously seen individual examples of his work in various galleries as well as being familiar with his work via books, magazines and the internet but this solo show, entitled ‘It is what it is and it ain’t nothing else’ (sic) was a revelation for me. Each room in which his work was installed was transformed by the light emanating from the neon tubes in a variety of colour combinations. The light sometimes rendered the corners of the room invisible and sometimes it exaggerated the corners as if they had become acute gaps receding away from the viewer. The light also radiated away from the tubes, affecting and transforming the architectural details of the room itself. I thoroughly enjoyed this show and it made me completely reassess his work.
The week passed far too quickly and as I traveled back to Heathrow by train I hoped it would not be too long before I could return.