At the recent assessment a large drawing caught the eye of the assessment team and I wanted to single out this piece as an example of what can happen when a student follows the logic of their research. I was lucky enough to be Gwenyth’s tutor for the OCA course Drawing One and during a Google Hangout session for the third submission it was clear that one subject — a large rock near her home in Sweden — meant a lot to her. I remember Gwenyth saying that it was a place that she walked to when she wanted to think. It was a destination that mattered and I suspect that many of us have some thing similar. That conversation proved crucial as it unlocked a significant subject that formed the basis of her final submission. (As a side note, this is evidence of the usefulness of using Google Hangout for some of the feedback at Level One; it really does reveal stuff that can be hard to get at in the purely written format).
As my students will probably attest I play down any thinking about making ‘art’ or anything with meaning, especially at Level One, but instead encourage them to make work and see what emerges from the making process. Taking care to notice what’s successful and what’s not so successful in the work is important and comes into the ‘Quality of Outcome’ criteria at assessment. Pulling hard on the threads that fascinate is a good way to start the process. By picking a subject to obsess over, Gwenyth’s work began to flow and a voice began to emerge.
One of the products of this research was her large drawing — which is almost as big as the rock itself. The problem of scale forced her to think creatively about how to make something so ambitious. You can read in detail the thought processes (and her strategy for shipping something so large for assessment) in Gwenyth’s own words on her blog.
She writes about how Anselm Kiefer’s work informed her intention to draw ‘heavy’ and of how the subject grew in meaning as the rock in question — a glacial erratic — is not native to the local environment but has settled there.* This is important. As Gwenyth writes:
Like me, The Erratic is an immigrant. It has travelled to its resting place in a process that was an upheaval. It has been shaped to fit into its surroundings until it can change no more. No matter how much it adapts, lets lichens and mosses grow on its surface, it will always be different. It is in its world but not of it. I feel a great affinity with this boulder and making this piece has reinforced that feeling.
So, the act of drawing and redrawing has bound a student to a subject and revealed something quite profound and, I hazard to suggest, moving. This, for me, is evidence that something modest can grow through attention and labour into something really quite special. Regardless of any academic submission or result, this is important stuff and I feel privileged to have been part of the experience.
Post Script: In my final feedback I said that I would have liked to have seen more sketchbook drawings of the erratic. I liked what had been submitted, but I’m always greedy for more sketchbook work as I know assessors respond favourably to sketchbooks bursting with intense work. After that last submission Gwenyth made more drawings and some of these were submitted for assessment.
*An erratic is a boulder transported and deposited by a glacier having a lithology different than the bedrock upon which it is sitting: http://www.landforms.eu/cairngorms/glacial%20erratics.htm (accessed 26/7/17)
You might remember reading a post Gwenyth wrote about meeting a fellow student here.