Uncovering Bigger Ideas
Developing meaningful studio work
with linking or progressive relationships developed through sustained investigation
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 lead to an interesting and Coherent Body of Work. One-off assignments, or work that starts with a different topic each time does not develop the kind of depth that working with certain ideas or images over time does. Teaching students to pursue a particular line of inquiry means getting them to think beyond the obvious, and this is indeed a challenge. Use your Workshop Style Sessions to introduce new techniques but ask students to use their own developing area of interest as the subject matter!
Topics with layers of meaning, both material and conceptual.
Sometimes the starting point they choose is way too broad (i.e Human emotion or Man and Nature) and the work remains superficial. We need to help them identify other angles or ways of approaching the topic so they can make it more individual, less generic....I find that complex topics with a material or physical aspect as well as symbolic, conceptual can be the most rewarding to work with.( i.e Roots, Migration, Viruses...). Such topics already suggest specific imagery and possible materials to work with by their nature.. Look at some of the examples in the student Exhibition Gallery , such as Margherita, HL Exhibition, Sophie, Exhibition HL, Lucia, Exhibition SL
Going beyond the first response
The temptation is often for students to race on to the next idea and the challenge lies in getting them to slow down enough to go beyond first response, beyond the obvious. To develop bigger ideas they need to first experiment freely, then investigate thoughtfully, then make something intentionally, then reflect, review, refine...
With a little help from the teacher, they will be able to transform a banal or too broad topic into something worthy of sustained attention. It is worth spending the time with the students one on one, to help uncover or highlight potential good ideas for individual work. By investing energy and time helping students identify specific areas/concepts to work with, they will be able to work independently with some meaningful material for most of the second year.
Identify dead-ends early on!
When students spend days or even weeks working with ideas they aren’t genuinely invested in or simply are not engaged by, this inevitably leads to mediocre work.
Mindmapping is an effective way of both broadening and focusing a topic and uncovering the bigger ideas contained in it.
Assign a Self-Reflection as a way of developing reflective thinking and self knowledge.
The IDEA underpinning the topic rather than the cliche'
Student: I was thinking my theme could be EYES (cliche' topic)
Teacher: ( encouraging) OK. What is the bigger idea behind EYES? Is it Vision? Perception? How you see the world? How the world sees you? The female gaze? Voyeurism? Exposure?
Formulate a question; a juicy question almost always leads to good work. Look up artists who work with these ideas, what kind of work do they make?
By encouraging students to develop a "thematic" or linking ideas approach, we are trying to teach them to explore their passions and the things they wonder about through prolonged investigation. If this investigation is spurred by a genuine interest and a willingness to take risks, it will lead to interesting artistic discoveries.
Student: I just want to make graffiti
Teacher: What is it about graffiti that appeals to you? Is it the actual graphics and aesthetic of the medium or is it the idea of rebellion, being outside the system? what is the message that interests you?
Suggest artists and resources for investigation:Suggest he go out photographing grafitti and make a survey of styles, content, and site specific work. By first becoming more informed, his own ideas in relation to the topic will become more sharply focused and articulate.
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