A change in the way that study visits are arranged has allowed OCA students to propose and arrange events through OCASA. In effect this means events can take an alternative focus driven by students’ wishes.
A study workshop held at The Tabernacle in London did just that. The programme for the day was formed out of a survey of students wishes in collaboration with OCASA, Arlene Sharp (OCA student and organiser of the day) and myself, as OCA tutor. We settled on a timetable combining discussion about work, making practical work, a presentation about my own practice, and finishing with a Q and A session. This very full day was attended by students from photography, textiles, painting, drawing fine art and visual communication courses.
My own practice crosses site specific live art, drawing and painting. I chose to show the students examples of live work through short video pieces which generated a lively discussion about how to document work that is time based. When working in some media – such as performance or works of an interactive nature, how do we adequately document the work to give a sense of the real time experience? Taking a distance learning course with the requirement to keep a learning log, can contribute to developing effective documentation skills. The regular practice of posting images of work online gives ample opportunity to consider framing, light and shade, exposure and balance.
Our practical session was centred on ideas generation and how to generate multiple visual experiments from a single starting point. Taking a crumpled piece of A4 paper as our subject, we first drew its form, then experimented with scale and composition. Students had been asked to bring a small object with them and this was integrated into the folds of the paper offering contrasting textures and scale. Smart phone cameras were used to record progressive stages of the process, highlighting the many and varied ways that we gather visual research.
The warm and sunny weather enticed several students outdoors to record their personal objects in different locations.
Thinking critically about work is an important part of artistic practice and a valuable part of the day was spent critiquing and discussing each other’s visual work, expressly avoiding words such as ‘like’ and ‘interesting’. A walk around the room evidenced a fascinating list of overheard words picked out from the energetic hubbub: fragmented, dismembered, automatic, chemistry, difference, content, tone, light – to name but a few. Looking at and talking about visual work is not always easy; Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art by Ossian Ward is a small book that sets out a step by step process of looking at and understanding contemporary art taking the position of tabula rasa – an open mind – as the starting point.
To conclude the day a short Question and Answer session covered a range of topics after which the day’s work was displayed. An impressive show of drawn, video, photographic works were set out, evidencing the impressive talents of OCA students.
Update from Arlene: We all agreed this was an exciting and creative day. The students’ comments speak for themselves: –
‘I really enjoyed the day it was interesting, inspiring and useful. As a distance learning student I tend sometimes to feel isolated so always enjoy study visits as it is good to engage with other students.’
‘This is the first OCA practical workshop I have attended, and it met all my expectations fully. It was useful learning new skills particularly how to look at art in a critical way and I definitely intend to use the three words idea again. I feel I have come away with lots to think about and practical skills to develop further.’
‘To experience a working environment together, even when working on one’s own work, is so powerful that I would like to explore ways of how to keep the momentum and energy.’
‘It was such a stunning experience to chat and exchange with others. I am very thankful for having had that opportunity.’
‘From a personal perspective and thinking about Caroline’s work – I found it relevant to see how some projects which began with painting and drawing could then digress in many other ways.’
‘It was also great to meet a few other students who I have been on the same courses with and have interacted with online but not met in person before. It was an unbelievably useful and productive day, it was really good to meet and exchange ideas with fellow students. I think this contact is one of the key things that are missing from distance learning.’
Ward O (2014), Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art, London, Laurence King