“Every child is an artist.” This quote by Picasso is the motto of the latest exhibition at Shetland Museum, celebrating the diversity of art and design from most of the schools in Shetland from nursery to secondary six.
It is a rare chance to see professionally presented art work that would usually be stored away or at best pinned up in a corridor, and as one teacher pointed out this is the tip of the creative iceberg of what happens in Shetland schools.
The power and diversity of the work on display makes an immediate impression as soon as you walk in, none more so than the bold portrait that greets you by Claire Laurenson of Brae School, entitled Blood on Her Hands. Inspired by the Shakespearian character of Lady MacBeth, this work is like a theatre of paint, well composed with penetrating eyes that ask more questions than give answers.
This work by a pupil at the end of her school years is hung alongside the work of those at the beginning of their schooling and as such it is a perfect chance to reflect on the journey of creative development from nursery to secondary six.
The collection of oil pastel mini beasts by Olnafirth primary pupils are joyful, expressive, well drawn and exciting, nature as seen through the eyes of a child, and demonstrates the myriad connections art has to other parts of the school curriculum. The painting of a Rain Forest by Jenny Irvine is so atmospheric that you can literally hear the animals and feel the life of the rainforest as a living, breathing ecosystem.
Making art enables children to become more visually aware of and sensitive to their environment and nurtures appreciation of both man-made objects and natural forms.
Design projects make pupils become conscious of the thought process that goes into design, as well as considering how things are put together. It is no bad thing to remind ourselves every now and then that every man-made object, no matter how simple, was designed by someone. Imaginative skills are developed in the art room, and this is the place in a school where children can be free to develop original thinking, express personal thoughts and feelings and stimulate creativity in the broadest sense of the word.
Among a class of 20 children there can be 20 right answers, each one different and individual, endless ways of resolving a problem. The world has never been so visually orientated and the way things look is as important as the way things function. Good design skills start in the art room.
In an increasingly virtual world where we are used to things happening at the click of a button, sitting down to paint, draw or sculpt with the hands takes us back to an elemental activity that takes time and effort to succeed. The journey to finish a piece of work may take weeks or months. Talent alone is not enough to succeed in art or design; it takes effort, drive, determination and stamina to bring creative work to fruition.
My personal favourite pieces are the fantastically vibrant coloured Van Gogh inspired scraper drawings by Anderson High School pupils. Van Gogh looked at other artists to expand his visual language, and in turn these pupils look at Van Gogh and learn from him.
Animated films are shown on a computer as well as a loop slide show of the many examples of the work that couldn’t fit in the show. Also showing are films made by the children themselves, documenting work in progress in the art room, and what comes across is the sheer joy of creating. It would be a dull world for us all without art or design.
So what should we make of Picasso’s dictum that “every child is an artist”? Well he continues the sentence by saying “the problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up”.
Here’s hoping that many of these talented pupils will go on to become fully fledged artists, designers and creative individuals in later life.
Do not miss this inspirational show that was made possible by the hard work of the art teachers.
The exhibition runs till 6th December in Da Gadderie at Shetland Museum.