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Friday, 19 September 2008

Delicious Mixed or Separate

I am currently two weeks into my Foundation Art and Design course and I have been spending most of this time being encouraged by my tutors to explore all of the corners of the visual arts spectrum. Up until now I have been learning the arts in specific categories; in my fine art classes I did painting, drawing and sculpture and had to make sure I didn’t veer too much into design. In my graphic design classes I spent most of the time on Photoshop and little traditional art found its way into my coursework. The other three classes that formed the art department were photography, textiles and 3D design. I only got to touch on the basics of these disciplines in my classes.

Now I’m a BTEC student I’m finally getting a taste of everything and it’s peculiar to me how it all mixes in so easily. In textiles projects we can make sculptural 3D design clothes, in 3D design projects we can use graphic design to create beautiful shells and packaging, in photography projects we can use a paintbrush and make a traditional fine art painting out of photo paper and chemicals.

I can’t quite explain how refreshing it is to not have to worry about which discipline I’m following. However, as I’m planning to follow the graphic design aspect of the visual arts, I’m going to have to be careful to not get used to doing whatever I want. Artists can do whatever they want. Designers can usually only do what their client wants. (Although that’s not to say that I can’t put my own little spin on anything I create).

As Foundation Art and Design mainly functions to get us into university, we’re encouraged to mix the disciplines. Our 3D design teacher told us how when he went to his interview for his architecture degree, the interviewers showed little interest in the 3D work of his portfolio and instead quizzed him about his intentions and criticisms of the rest of his work. Universities and employers like artists and designers with a broad knowledge of art. After all, a photographer can only bring so much to photography, whereas a photographer/fine artist/graphic designer is going to have a lot more experience with composition and lighting.

In art, a jack of all trades will often do better than a master of one.


Sam Trotman said...

Hi Lisa
I think it is a very interesting point you raise about how the arts are segregated within institutions.
I think that even outside of schools and colleges the arts are still divided. When i worked within the visual arts i worked with a whole different group of artists to the ones i now work with within the live art sector even though many artists work with a range of media including performance, the cross over simply doesn't happen as often as it could.
i think the most interesting programs that are being run at the moment are ones where many diciplines are represented like South London Gallery whose education and community strand has a combination of performance artists, comedians, poets & talks for teachers.
Does anyone else know of any institutions (schools, venues galleries etc) who have a multi disciplinary approach? i would be interested to hear about them

Yasmine Boudiaf said...

I totally agree. I have found that exploring a wider range of disciplines is more fulfilling, though my experience of A-level art unfortunately was quite narrow, mainly due to lack of funding for the dapartment. I think it's a shame that people may quit persuing an artistic career because they haven't experienced a good range early on.

Holly said...

Art and design foundation was certainly the most exciting part of my art education, it was about playing and having fun with materials, without worrying so much about what it all meant... My degree in fine art taught me how to think and I graduated as a jack of much and a master of nothing, for sure! As a teacher i have become more of a master, learning on the job! When I was at Kingston university the fine art was split into 3 categories - painting, sculpture and inter-media - I found that the painters were trained very traditionally in comparison to the rest of us and we were all quite segregated with workshops in print and performance sometimes bringing us together... I remember a project where we were mixed up with people doing architecture, graphics, illustration, fashion, music etc. (who were far more segregated - ideologically and geographically). A couple of students from each discipline were put in groups and had to come up with an artwork together - interesting on paper but a total disaster in practice! We hated it and us fine artists, felt kind of 'superior' to the design cohort! and were too sinical and naive to share and learn from each other. At the end of the day the disciplines can be quite divided because artists and designers have different ideologies and ways of working, but one's practice in the arts, certainly benefits from a well rounded experience of art and design! By the way, I think Kingston is great and now offers a much more multi-disciplinary course in fine art having mixed up the 3 disciplines.

Phoebe Davies said...

I had much the same experience as Holly - I went to Wimbledon for my degree and there they still divide the BA courses into Painting / Sculpture / Print and Digital Media.

I was on painting but pretty much mainly made performance and installation - I didn't feel like I was on the wrong course (even though I didn't pick up a paint brush) however I would have liked for it to have been more open - as the segregation between mediums (which in my opinion is very old fashioned) prevented possible collaboration / inspiration from people on the other courses.

Even though I learnt loads on the course (also due to the fact that Wimbledon have a large Theatre department in the uni) I felt that I was restricted by this model of learning. I see the obvious need for your main tutor to be suitable for the medium you make work in - but do not think that studio space / talks / crits should also comply with this.

(Since leaving Wimbledon, they have introduced a "Time based media" Course - performance/video)