Imagine a world within a world where giant colourful bees look at pink ice cream cones while flying around a cross.
Imagine a world where around every corner is a new surprise like tartan castles and animated sculptures all set to mesmeric music.
Imagine a sculpture park with giant pencils, golden chairs and easels holding painted treasure.
Imagine eating your dinner in a room with fantastical multi-coloured table cloths while looking at a large painting created by 300 Shetland children.
Imagine a place where printmaking inspires music, where words inspire images and images inspire words, where sculptures inspire film and paintings inspire sculptures.
This is The Art World and it’s on at the Bonhoga Gallery at Weisdale now.
The show is a collaborative creative exhibition by artist Amy Gear who worked with 300 children and their teachers from five schools across Shetland – Aith, Sandwick, Whalsay, Fetlar, and Baltasound.
Over six months she led a series of creative workshops where the work created in one school inspires the work created in the next.
Jane Mathews of Shetland Arts, who has been managing the project, describes it as “like a giant game of creative consequences pushing boundaries and mixing up art forms from school to school”.
The result is a rich feast for the senses with a cacophony of colours, shapes, sounds and narratives in a world where anything is possible.
This is not just a thrown-together exhibition of school art but a carefully and imaginatively curated show built around the structures of the art world with its sculpture parks, installations, videos, audio guides, paintings, products and display cabinets.
By asking starting point questions such as – What is an artist? What can an artist do? What is the art world? – and working in
collaboration with the children and teachers the workshops tore apart the rule books and stuck it back together again in exciting and original ways.
Gear describes the fresh viewpoint and creative output of the children as “like taking an ugly bit of scrap throwaway paper and transforming it into a beautiful majestic origami swan”.
Gear and Mathews have taken the children on a journey of the imagination where images, objects, film, words and sounds mutually enrich and inform each other.
The art created from this experience is like potential creative seeds that have been sowed in each individual and that given nurturing could in the future grow into great things.
Putting the work in a gallery values their achievements by building pride and confidence and fostering a can-do attitude.
What is the point some might ask in filling a gallery with children’s art? Or what is the value of taking children on a journey of the imagination with no end destination in mind or indeed what is the point of art at all?
It’s maybe easier to answer this question by imagining trying to live in a world with no art and by extension no design.
Who would design our clothes, our buildings, interiors, furniture? Every item around us is designed by someone.
Where does design start? In the imagination, someone somewhere imagined it. This exhibition values the power of the imagination as a great and powerful creative resource, the same imagination that in adults is often squashed, repressed, dormant and unvalued.
As adults we sometimes lose our way and art and creativity can help bring us back on track by restoring meaning, purpose and beauty back into our lives.
Imagination can be seen as not serious, the stuff of children in a world where logic tries to be king, but if we foster and value our imagination anything is possible.
Children are imaginatively free but at some point that freedom is squashed and contained and we are much poorer for it.
An oft-quoted phrase by Picasso was that he spent the first part of his life trying to learn how to make so-called proper art and the rest of his life trying to unlearn that and rediscover the freedom of expression that exists in children.
The imaginative power of this exhibition reminds us what we have lost when imagination is repressed, neglected and unvalued.
This show turns this on its head by celebrating the joy, wonder and amazement that is unleashed when imagination is set free and for the participants and viewers this is an invaluable and enriching experience that could be the beginning of a creative journey that could lead anywhere.
The Art World is a must-visit exhibition and it runs until 24th July.