A Coherent Body of Work

For the exhibition students present a set of rigorously selected artworks that clearly communicate their artistic intentions. This doesn't mean that the all the works need to address the same subject or theme. A body of work can be related through exploration of visual qualities or through exploration of ideas and concepts.  See E submission for Exhibition or Exhibition Assessment Criteria

They select works that show:

  • coherent relationships among the work
  • technical skill and appropriate use of materials, techniques, processes
  • well-resolved work in line with stated intentions in rationale
  • consideration for the overall experience of the viewer.

Range of Media?

There is no requirement to exhibit works using a variety of media, the focus should be on exhibiting their stronger ( coherent) artworks, even if this is using a single medium or fewer media, rather than showcasing their explorations with a variety of media and no accomplished mastery.

Lets look at Criterion A: Coherent body of works

“The work forms a coherent collection of works which fulfill stated artistic intentions and communicate clear thematic or stylistic relationships across individual pieces”

Do students need a theme to create a coherent body of work?

This question is often asked by teachers: It is certainly not a requirement to have a theme, and themes should never be imposed. Continuity can be developed from one piece to the next, a progression of coherent linking ideas that aren't necessarily thematic. If students choose to work with a theme, it is important not to be limited by it, do not try to force everything to ‘fit ’ the theme but rather let it evolve naturally.

Look for naturally occurring connections between pieces: remember that the work selected for the exhibition should "hang" together. Any pieces that don't 'fit' in your exhibition you may need to leave out. They can still be documented in the PP:

However, for most students it can be very helpful to have a focus, to identify some key areas of interest and to develop a body of work around these. This studio work is supported and informed by the investigations in the Process Portfolio and Comparative Study.

Clarification on themes from the 2019 subject report

The ‘theme’ refers to a concept, idea or thread that underpins the whole exhibition. It must be clarified once more that this is not a requirement for the visual arts exhibition, even if it is fully acceptable.

In some cases, having a theme helped candidates develop ideas in a more broad and conceptual manner, but only when there was an understanding that variation and diversity within a thematic approach is vital. For many candidates producing artwork within a theme might become a constraint to their creativity and should be avoided. However, for other candidates it can do the opposite: for example, if the theme/concept is a spring board for work that is exciting, diverse and meaningful then there is nothing wrong with having a theme.

The level of sophistication in the conceptual qualities varied enormously: there was some encouragingly thoughtful ‘issues’-based work, but other work relied on lengthy justifications and explanations in the exhibition text and/or curatorial rationale, without really providing evidence in the actual art pieces of the ways in which ideas were elaborated. These exhibitions were superficial and underdeveloped visually and often obvious, banal and predictable ideas and imagery were presented.

An area of interest or

An area of interest can be a subject, such as the human figure or landscape, or a concept, such as identity or transformation, an  element of art, like light and shadow, or material concerns like transparency or texture. Any area of interest can be pursued in depth and breadth across a range of media, subjected to various influences and experimentation.

Students should be encouraged to identify certain areas of interest that derive from their experiences and curiosity towards the world. and  build upon these natural inclinations through investigations, the artists they study, experiments with materials and techniques and continued reflection and attention.

Look at examples of exhibition work in the student gallery where student has clearly developed connections around linking ideas

Viola, Exhibition HL

Sophie, Exhibition HL

Related pages

Finding a Focus

Finding Focus is a site page that discusses developing focus with student examples, and students may also find chapter 5 Developing Focus in my book Visual Arts for the IB Diploma helpful in discovering their own personal direction and area of focus. Preview available here.

Uncovering Bigger Ideas

Creating work for the exhibition that pivots around linking ideas, concepts, questions, images is quite different from presenting a series of teacher led assignments and will certainly be more likely...

Interdisciplinary Connections

The site section on Interdisciplinary Connections shows how other subject areas may be the source of great ideas for art investigation and development of work. Collaboration between the arts and other subject areas has the potential to create new knowledge, and cross fertilize ideas and processes in both fields.Art making can be inspired by encounters or connections...

Thematic Threads

This activity helps year 1 students to investigate a topic or theme through looking at images from art history. See Finding a Focus for more about developing individual directions.This is a fun way to...

The journal reflections and  Self-Reflections like this one below, support the development of individual artistic awareness.

 Individual reflection for students: self knowledge

Identifying your natural areas of strength will allow you to make the most of them and guide you towards making work that you really enjoy. Use the following questions to reflect on your strong points:

  • What are my strengths as a visual artist?
  • What techniques and media do I find naturally appealing?
  • Do I like to work with design?
  • Does my work have a narrative content?
  • Am I interested in conceptual art?
  • Am I drawn to figurative representation?
  • Do I enjoy craftsmanship?
  • Do I work slowly and methodically, or quickly and impulsively?
  • What matters to me when I make art?
  • What artists do I love?
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