Visual Arts Festival 2024 

Monday 25th March 2024

During February and March, a creative programme that celebrates art facilitated an incredibly exciting and diverse series of events for the Art School and College community. Pupils were invited to be involved in a collection of inspiring activities; the three foremost highlights being the Visual Conversations exhibition, held within the Mount House Gallery; a workshop and talks given by British artist Melanie Bellis and a lecture from our current Artist in Residence, Grace Payne-Kumar.

The gallery show Visual Conversations enabled three Lower Sixth pupils, Diya C, Jasmine B and Perdie G, to collaborate and curate the exhibition; collectively planning and presenting works with the guiding support of Mr Parnham. From the College Collection, artworks were carefully selected, then debated over again, in order to refine and make final choices to compliment art that was also provided on loan. Pupils, teachers, and other external gallery visitors experienced a considered juxtaposition of painterly themes, mediums, and artistic styles all under one roof. Contemporary abstract compositions, complex architectural works and multiple depictions of the British landscape provided visual contrasts or collaborations, depending on how and where they were placed on the gallery walls. Works by exhibited artists included, Norman Ackroyd MBE, Oliver Bancroft, Melanie Bellis RE, Sir Anthony Gormley RA, Albert Irvin RA and Jason Lilley. Additionally, we were lucky enough to be able to show a recent painting by our Artist in Residence, Grace Payne-Kumar, which aptly linked to themes of identity and cultural commentary.

‘The Sight-Size Method & Beyond’ was an informative talk presented by our Artist in Residence, Grace Payne-Kumar. Grace is a contemporary artist who trained at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy. This atelier gave Grace the intensive training for the ‘sight-size’ method of portraiture and figurative drawing, which involves working one-to-one in scale with the artist’s subject. Importantly for Grace, encouraging and inspiring pupils to follow their creative drive was undoubtedly reflected onto the listeners during her talk. Grace explores themes of nostalgia, cultural heritage, and social constructs such as gender stereotypes. During the evening with Grace, the audience learnt more about her artistic influences and education in Florence, including inspirations for her work and growing appreciation for female artists’ practises. We also received an insight into Grace’s personal techniques and how she brings character and life to her portraits through costume, props, and various backgrounds. It is so beneficial for GCSE and A level pupils to have this additional creativity and artistic advice throughout their time studying Art at the College.

The Art School was delighted to invite highly regarded printmaker, Melanie Bellis, to close our annual Festival. During her day long visit, Melanie introduced pupils and teachers to her immersive industrial landscape drawings and prints and discussed her practice of drawing on location, prior to developing her studies into atmospheric etched prints. It was a pleasure to look through Melanie’s sketchbooks, which are filled with her sensitively observed studies of urban environments. During the afternoon, many Upper and Lower Sixth pupils attended a comprehensive workshop provided by Melanie. All attendees remarked on the breadth of techniques covered when presenting her creative introduction, prior to each pupil focusing on crafting their own experimental hand painted monoprints. A highly appreciative thank you to Melanie for both her captivating workshop and for visiting several Art GCSE and A level classes throughout her visit.

Review by Perdie G, Diya C, Jasmine B & Jon Parnham (Visual Arts Coordinator)

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