Friday, 20 March 2020

Distraction (Playing along with the art school boys - part four)

I've been struggling with knowing how to pitch blog posts and words in general at the moment.  I've decided for me at least distraction is beneficial, a way of keeping things as 'normal' as possible, and I really hope this doesn't appear flippant or insensitive. It's just one way of coping and trying to offset the deluge of intense anxiety and very real issues and uncertainties that dominate and affect all our lives right now.  I don't want to go there in my blog as well and  to continue writing about unconnected things in a familiar way is a form of expression/outlet which helps keep me grounded; a stable, trivial place away from the rest.  But I'm aware this may not be the same for everyone, so I do hope anyone coming here will understand.

Thus today I'm just writing about art.


As I sloshed shiny brown paint onto an over-sized sausage formed from lumps of foam wrapped in paper, I had no idea about Bauhaus.  I don’t mean the band –  although they were soon to lure me into torn black lace dresses – I mean the art movement.  But I realise now that one of the very first projects we were given on my Foundation Art course was directly influenced by it.  The original Bauhaus Art School founder, Walter Gropius, was keen to encourage problem-solving and experimentation in different media, and 60 years later my college tutor Stella did the same.  It was a basic introduction to the study of elementary form, materials, colour and craftsmanship.

The resulting artwork, a collaborative effort, was a giant hot-dog, around 4 feet long, made with discarded objects and materials unearthed from studio rubbish bins and the like.  I can’t remember now if the things we found inspired the idea of a hot-dog, or if we were inspired by someone’s lunch.  It doesn’t matter – in true Bauhaus style we experimented with materials, solved construction problems and  thus transformed foam and paper, Copydex  and paint into a supersized weenie, complete with plastic Ketchup and woodchip sesame seeds.

Ah, such carefree, creative days and yet did I truly appreciate them?  I don’t think I did. 

So when I see art students now I get that whole feeling  back, but wish I could do it all again and not be so overwhelmed by all the silly things that most 17-year olds are overwhelmed by (or were then!).   Seeing fresh-faced art students, so often deep-thinking, slightly misfit kids with a taste for strangely matched clothes, gives me a genuine lift.  I think it's because it reminds me of all those opportunities to explore and experiment, to learn and be playful, in a field which really, when you think about it, is something of an indulgence.    However, perhaps given the situation we find ourselves in at the moment, we might appreciate the undemanding pleasure of  some art for art’s sake more than ever.

This is exactly what I felt the other night on watching the recent TV documentary about the Bauhaus School on BBC Four ('Bauhaus Rules', still available on iPlayer here  - interesting soundtrack too).   The delightful Jim Moir aka Vic Reeves took us to Central Saint Martins  where we met some young graduates who would spend a week working on various projects subject to the ‘rules’ inspired by the original Bauhaus artists who taught it.  From strange breathing exercises to a themed costume party and much in between it's a crash course I would happily sign up to now if it existed..  Oh, I wanted to be back in Stella's Foundation Art class, just starting out, feeling as if we're pushing boundaries (from the safe haven of an educational institution!), wide-eyed and curious (and sometimes a little defiant).  We oscillated between the opposing states of either taking oneself far too seriously or having ridiculous, unbridled fun, between being a quiet introvert on the one hand and having a distinct taste for the outrageous on the other.   

Anyway, in the programme, the students are set projects by established creatives from different disciplines who have all been inspired by the Bauhaus design principles.  One of these is Neville Brody and I was reminded just how much I love his graphic style and typography, with which many of us of a certain age are so familiar, thanks to his work in ‘The Face’ magazine.

Once you become aware of a certain Bauhaus style, you see it all around too, from chair designs to clocks to album cover artwork.

If you have some extra time on your hands and you’re into art, or perhaps anything a little left field (and/or Jim/Vic) I recommend losing yourself in this programme and the joy of art student thinking for a short while.  And even if not, maybe now is the time to abandon our genuine worries for a brief moment, turn to some easy escapism and playtime from the safety of our own homes, and set ourselves the task of making something creative and unexpected.

(Well, it has to be Bauhaus...)
Kick In The Eye 2

Take care x


  1. Added to my ever-expanding 'to watch' list...

    1. Hope you enjoy it, I also loved BBC Four's 'Kill Your TV - Jim Moir's Weird World of Video Art'. Did you see? And, while on the subject of Jim Moir - those two newest series of Vic & Bob's Big Night Out which is one of the few programmes to actually make me laugh out loud (a very rare thing) and feel utterly away from all the troubles in the world for each completely daft Dada-ist half hour episode. I know they're not everyone's cup of tea but they are mine!

  2. I've been worrying about how to pitch things too, decided that sharing and positivity is a good thing and under the circumstances a few minutes of escapism works.

    I love Bauhaus and the documentary is really good. Gropius and his students really did design the modern world.

    1. Thanks SA, I agree, yes it's a weird and dreadful time but I don't want us to all sink into a mire of deep depression on top of everything else and lose sight of all the normal, positive things that help keep us on track. Always grateful to see great blogs such as yours operating as usual!

      Totally agree about Bauhaus.

  3. Hi C - I have tried to visit this post a couple of times now but am having difficulty in concentrating at the moment as my mind leaping all over the place.

    I did managed this time though and yes those days at art school are very familiar to Mr WIAA as he too went down that route. Brown must have been a popular colour as one of his "works" was apparently a giant canvas covered in brown paint, and all because it was the cheapest one in the range! Until last year he also worked in our local art college and as it was an old building (it used to be his secondary school) they were allowed a free reign to adorn the walls and staircases with all sorts of amazing art works - Happy days. Recently a brand new clinical looking college opened to replace it but strict rules about not pinning up artwork or spilling anything on the pristine carpets! Doesn't work for an art dept. Sad.

    1. Hi Alyson, yes, such strange times we're living in, indeed it's hard to concentrate. Your words about Mr WIAA's similar art school experiences are so evocative. Really sum up that time/place. Shame about the new one - you can't have an art department without some messy self-expression, it's against the rules!


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