U6 London Galleries Trip

Ai Weiwei and William Kentridge are both politically active, international artists from the East and West, so it was fortunate that we were able to visit their highly regarded exhibitions in London, during the Upper Sixth trip in September.

The Royal Academy’s galleries elegantly supported Ai Weiwei’s perceptive and provocative art works. Due to his passport being withheld by Chinese authorities, Weiwei had to co-curate the show whilst being based in China. Though remotely planned, his discerning architectural awareness is still very evident, both in his understanding of the spaces and how his chosen works interacted with each environment. ‘Straight’, the largest single installation, powerfully visualises the loss of more than 5,000 students after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Weiwei collected and displayed 5,000 names and information about the deceased children, to support the touching, though subversive work of art.


Our students were also moved by the six half-life size models that depict the incarceration Ai Weiwei was subjected to for 81 days in China. Whilst looking into the claustrophobic dioramas, we realised that we had also participated in the sensation of being part of the surveillance.

William Kentridge, a South African born artist, held his first solo exhibition in London for 15 years at the Marian Goodman Gallery. Within the main ground floor galleries, Kentridge debates whether imagery reigns over words, and merges both with equal potency. His extensive ink on multiple-paged found works present paintings that vigorously emerge over aged Western and Eastern printed texts.

As we approached the first floor, we could at first, hear anthemic music, drawing us towards the magnificent eight-screen processional film installation ‘More Sweetly Play the Dance’. Inside the upper gallery processional life-size figures almost enveloped us within the artwork.

During the afternoon, we dedicated time to visit The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2015 at Jerwood Space. 60 works, including film, displayed many contrasting approaches to what ‘drawing’ is currently perceived to be. Students absorbed the varied collection and created studies within their sketchbooks, to add to their personal project work within the Art School.

A gallery of images from the trip can be viewed here.

Jon Parnham
Head of Art
Twitter: @MCol_Art

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