Making waves: the importance of being bold, daring, risky and unconventional

Over the past few months our inspiration for art clubs has shifted back to old favourites from the gallery collection, such as William Turner’s ‘Now for the Painter’ (Rope) – Passengers Going on Board (1827) and other great paintings which portray the forces of nature and depict dramatic seascapes or landscapes. These works are powerful, bold, risky and daring and demonstrate ways artists have constantly tested things out in order to push boundaries and develop their practices throughout the ages. We hope this also reflects the way we work in our sessions – reflecting the work on the walls but also taking risks to draw out key elements suitable for our audiences.

During our planning meetings, we all work together to decide on themes which will work well in our art clubs. We also identify and consider the inclusion of a range of interesting materials and resources which are used in different ways to bring the artworks to life through the senses and the imagination. When designing Mini Art Club, I want participants to experience the artwork as if they were opening the window and climbing into the scene before them. This means evoking how it would feel, say, to be on a boat out at sea, a storm blowing overhead, waves crashing overboard, with strong winds, sea spray, rain, loud noises, etc.

As artists coming up with ideas for different gallery sessions, we all have our own practice and interests we would like to pursue when coming up with ideas. This means we make some interesting choices in relation to including materials, like different mark-making substances, water sprayers filled with paint, ice, stones, salt, brushes on sticks, electric fans, suspended nets, etc. Sometimes our participants may think our choices may seem rather risky, outlandish or inappropriate. However, we always risk assess and try to consider the importance of a material and why we are using it.

We believe it is important for children to have a really rich experience of artworks and different spaces. We emphasise open-ended, child-led exploration where children lead the way and where adults are constantly supporting this, not sitting on the side. We like to try out something new and take risks as we feel that children should be given opportunities to experience things in a stimulating, unusual environment – with their hands, their senses, their imaginations and with others. The world outside is vast and risky and this is all part of a way to prepare them on a bold journey into the unknown, giving them the tools to be responsive, adaptable and flexible, making wise decisions along the way.

In other words:

‘If our ultimate goal is to ensure that children grow up as engaged, self-confident, responsible, and resilient individuals who feel they have some control over their destinies and alive to the consequences of their actions, childhood needs to include frequent, unregulated, self-directed contact with people and places beyond the immediate spheres of family and school, and the chance to learn from their mistakes.’ (Tim Gill, 2008)

Expect some more outlandish artworks, activities and materials soon!

Michiko Fujii, March 2015