Bedales artwork exhibited at the Southbank Undercroft

By Daniel Preece, Head of Art

Last year the architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, who designed the Art & Design building and Olivier Theatre, approached Bedales’ Art Department to create a piece for a temporary project space at the Southbank Undercroft – a space that the architects are renovating to transform into an educational space.

As the 6.1 art project for the autumn term had been based around the urban environment, it seemed a good opportunity to explore the processes and ideas that had been introduced to the students and to make a response to the architecture of the buildings Feilden Clegg Bradley had designed for the school.

This involved drawing from the architecture, creating collages in pairs from these and personal photographs taken. These collages were then combined and used to create a mural that spanned 122cm x 366cm. A revolving team of students worked on the painting for over a week and the panels were then installed in the space at the Undercroft on 4 December.

The finished work was shown alongside work from students of Manchester School of Art, Chelsea School of Art, The Red House, Plymouth School of the Creative Arts and Plymouth College of Art. It provided a backdrop for the day conference to discuss the wider issues of the role of architectural space and curriculum in art education in schools and colleges.

Members of the panel included Peter Clegg (Feilden Clegg Bradley); Patrick Brill OBE RA (Bob and Roberta Smith); Clare Lilley (Yorkshire Sculpture Park); Andrew Brewerton (Plymouth School of the Creative Arts); and Samantha Cairns (Creative Learning Alliance).

Old Bedalian artists in the Archive

By Ian Douglas, Librarian

JT_Ray_1925

Bedales Memorial Library, 1925, woodcut by Julian Trevelyan published in a short-lived Bedales school magazine, The Ray

Bedalians should take care not to miss Julian Trevelyan: The Artist and his World, at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester until 10 February 2019. As the Country Life reviewer notes, this fascinating exhibition celebrates “a unique artistic vision that was first fostered at Bedales”.

Last week, the Bedales Archive was delighted to welcome James Scott, co-curator of the exhibition. He came to learn more about the febrile artistic environment which prevailed at Bedales in the early part of the 20th century, and which produced a crop of highly influential artists, patrons and art administrators. We were able to show James early work by such luminaries as John Rothenstein, Stephen Bone and Julian Trevelyan himself, including his woodcut of the newly-completed Memorial Library, reproduced above.

In particular, James was interested to learn more about ‘Gigi’ Innes Meo, who taught at the school from 1923 to 1940, and who was credited by Julian Trevelyan as a major influence. Another celebrated OB artist, Diana Armfield, has shared her own memories of Gigi here.

As well as these relics of a wonderful artistic heritage, our guest was also impressed by the new Art and Design Building, and pleased to see that a first class artistic education is still on offer to today’s generation of Bedalians.


The Bedales Archive is always happy to receive enquiries about any aspect of the history of the school, or to accept donations of artefacts or documents illustrating that history. Please contact archive@bedales.org.uk. A small selection of archive material is freely available online at the  Bedales Schools Digital Archive.

Bill Pullen exhibition and artist’s talk

By Millie Page, 6.2

Painting with eggs may seem unorthodox at first, but it is actually a sacred art practiced by icon painters for centuries in Europe, Asia and Africa. Last Wednesday, Bedales’ Art Department was fortunate enough to host William Pullen who demonstrated this extremely niche and traditional medium to a small group of onlookers.

Firstly, he took us through the act of how to pick up a new material. When a different medium is used the mind-set changes, which Pullen explains, is important, because as artists we must “accept and embrace change of all aspects”.

The artist himself often feels the need to ‘swap between’ different methods to avoid the artist equivalent of writer’s block, and has created everything from work in watercolour to sketches in silverpoint. On the latter art, there is no going first time the pure silver tool touches the paper, especially imbibed with chemicals to ensure a permanent mark. This creates beauty in that it is possible to see the sketcher’s first vision of the subject as they put point to paper superimposed with the finishing finite detail.

This is the polar opposite to watercolour, which are executed within minutes, and being able to switch from one of the other is a wonderful and liberating thing.

Then it came to the tempera.

This is where the sense of time held tradition is the most obvious, among powdered, occasionally toxic pigment pots and jars of rabbit skin glue, the artist opened a box of eggs (bought in a rush from Bedales Outdoor Work) and began to show us a process left almost untouched for hundreds of years.

The talk was a mix of technique and art history as well as personal experience and approach. Tempera is a troublesome and time consuming painting method, of which little was known until the 1950s when societies of curious artists developed recipes through experiment and pouring over Cenini’s original tempera handbook from the 1500s.

Gradually a small niche group of contemporary artists began to use the forgotten medium once again. As someone who is interested in using the material myself, the talk was informative for many reasons. For one, I had seriously underestimated the time it takes to paint even one painting using egg yolk emulsion as a binder. To paint something detailed it would take me weeks, or months of dedicated time!

This is possibly the reason that it has been used in past religious art, such lengthy amounts of time (not to mention the costs of the pigments) and attention to detail could be consecrated only for something believed to be truly sacred.

This is where Bill breaks the cycle. His content is virgin of the familiar coy Madonna and her child, and is free from the gold leaf and sense of grandiosity. The fruits of his labour are highly detailed, hyperrealist still lives and luminous landscapes, with the seemingly glowing quality of the tempera working to his advantage. Instead of painting massive spiritual portrait, the artist chooses instead to accurately accentuate the natural dreamlike atmosphere that lives within a landscape.

A small painting in the current exhibition is proof of this. This is another point: the constraints of tempera do not force you to follow the majority of tempera art and painting inherently religious or detailed work.

You can choose to paint in whatever way you want as long as you feel the material is a guide to the quality you want in the final product.

Indeed, the chicken did probably not expect its egg to be part of a masterpiece of cross-hatched lines of warm and cool colours, so why should the artist feel anymore obliged to paint what the observer expects. Art is unpredictable and should be a breeding ground for new ideas, for which old materials could be used.

Overall, the quasi-performance was both inspiring and intriguing, showing how a paint can behave in a completely different way to expecting, with colours becoming brighter when the opposite tone is used as an undercoat. It was also a very intimate thing; painting in tempera is a process of pure creativity from the moment the egg is hatched to the last brush stroke, and it is a blessing that art made in this way can be admired for a thousand years.

Bedales Head of Art taking part in two exhibitions in September

London Group exhibition

The new Head of Art at Bedales, Daniel Preece, is exhibiting at two locations in Cornwall in September. Daniel, who is also a practising artist of 25 years, is taking part in a three-man show at the Tregony Gallery, near Truro. The three artists involved – Daniel, Mark Dunford and David Wiseman – are all members of the prestigious artist collective, the London Group. The three are also taking part in a London Group exhibition at the Penwith Gallery in St Ives. The exhibition features painting, drawing, photography, mixed-media, print, 3D and a video show reel.

The London Group came out of the Camden Town Group and was set up in 1913 by 32artists including Walter Sickert, Jacob Epstein, Wyndham Lewis and David Bomberg, with the aim of creating a powerful artist-run group to act as a counter-balance to institutions such as the Royal Academy. The founding group created a unique structure for an organisation, and has gone on to successfully nurture the careers of many of Britain’s best-known artists.

Many of the members of the London Group are also visiting lecturers at other leading Art Schools and institutions in the UK. Daniel hopes to forge links through the other members to help the applications of the leaving 6.2.

Daniel believes to teach art well he needs to keep up his own practice and research.  Many of his teaching ideas have come from the struggles to make and visualize the world, pertinent to his own practise studying at the Slade and Royal Drawing School. He also believes there is no difference in his own need to create and the struggle a Block 3 student might have to paint and draw. He hopes his continued practical experience will help and to open up a dialogue.

A Necessary Woman – ‘No Vote, no Census’

Big Slider A necessary woman Poster image front

By Ollie van Hoeken, Bedales student

After teaching us about the context of the characters and events in the play in Jaw, Deborah Clair and Philippa Urquhart headed over to the theatre to prepare for their touring show.

The plot of the play is how Emily Davidson and ‘necessary woman’ Mary meet in the cleaning cupboard, and discuss their views of the suffragettes. Emily Davidson, a historical suffragette famously threw herself under the King’s horse for the right of women to vote. The character of Emily has come to disrupt the House of Commons meeting after the 1911 census.

The minimalist set created an intimate atmosphere and the use of recorded voice and sound of bells and the master, made the scenes focussed. With clear temporal shifts, the characters’ stories unfold; the audience can realise the irrelevance of class and age in an unlikely friendship. In this play Emily plans to address the House of Commons, however in 1911 she failed and this play gave the audience a rare chance to hear her voice.

Through the character of Mary, we see what life was like for women in the lower classes. She considered it lucky to keep her job after having given up her baby for adoption, this moment of saddening confession provided clear juxtaposition from Emily’s speeches of power. Mary made it clear that this was not uncommon for women of the time. By the end of the evening the audience took away a clear message: women have fought for the right to be equal and society has made huge leaps but there’s still a long way to go. This topic is still relevant today, but shown in a historical setting we see the similarities in prejudice.

Scripted and devised: theatre at its best

Bedales Theatre 22nd April 2018 Web Res-5335 (Large)

By Meg Allin, 6.1

On Tuesday and Wednesday the 6.2s performed their devised pieces. Often when people enter the Bedales Theatre they see plays with many possible interpretations, which are usually hard-hitting, and these plays were no exception. To start we walked to the lake and saw two ‘women of the lake’ attack, seduce and murder a Vicar fisherman.  It included a lot of deeply rooted sounds and voices that no average actor could conjure up. The real fire, hellish music, bleeding heart and misty lake made for an atmospheric piece.

Next, back in theatre, a funny but truthful portrayal of gender inequality and double standards, featuring a lot of modern pop culture references such as Trump, Harvey Weinstein and Jimmy Savile which made the comedy more shocking; a moment that struck me was strong modern women being objectified as “bossy” and men as “tough”.  This contrast raised a lot of questions among the audience about the play’s message.

A homely set was then constructed with a sofa, lamp and beanbag, following an emotional and physically meticulous piece made for a detailed telling of two lovers and their journey of nostalgia and “gut love”; this saddening but captivating piece showed us love in its most pure state, the internal world of the two men was complex and yet beautifully portrayed.

The penultimate piece featured three women in wedding dresses exploring ways that people and society handles sexual assault and rape, done with sensitivity and poise.  The three pulled off a clear, montage style piece including how to keep you ‘safe’ in a car park or on a flight.

To finish off the night, a group of butterflies graced us with singing, cling film and berries, the childish aspects ironically calmed the madness of the piece. The three created scenarios that depicted stages of a woman’s cycle, while integrating an interesting butterfly metaphor throughout. On top of all this the 6.2s have also been performing their scripted pieces, which they performed on Tuesday. A very impressive display of skill and innovation, anyone who didn’t see these plays really missed out on something special. View photos

 

Bedales dancers explore ghostly movement and experience Hofesh first-hand

By Maud Bonham-Carter, 6.2

Ghost Dance - RambertLast Tuesday, all Dance students from Block 4 to 6.2 were lucky enough to watch three professional works by Rambert Dance Company at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. The evening consisted of three pieces of works by different choreographers. In Transfigured Night, by Kim Brandstrup, two lovers meet by moonlight, and a dark secret threaten to tear them apart. Ghost Dances by Christopher Bruce, was one of the highlights for a lot of the students as we are studying this piece at A level – so seeing it live really allowed us to immerse ourselves in the piece due to the knowledge we already had about the piece. The last piece, A Linha Curva by Itzik Galili, is Rambert’s party piece, the use of lighting helped to convey their strong and upbeat performance with Samba-fuelled movement that really grasped the audience’s attention from start to finish.

Hofesh Shechter Workshop 

Hofesh photo.
By Mila Fernandez 6.1

Last week dancers throughout the Blocks and Sixth Form had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a dance workshop. This workshop was led by Chien-Ming Chang and Mickael Frappat from the Hofesh Shechter Company. Hofesh is a very famous Israeli choreographer who created his own style of contemporary dance. Now based in Brighton with his own company, Hofesh created many shows that have toured around Europe. Through his very defined style, Hofesh aims to awake the audience by making them experience his work from the gut. His themes explore issues such as how powerful we can be as individuals, political issues, tensions in society and our need to break free from society in order to find freedom. This makes his work feel very topical and relevant to our modern society.

In the workshop we were led into many improvisations using the bases of the Hofesh style. We explored the way our bodies could move through different rhythms whilst staying completely relaxed and ourselves. It was a great way to discover new material and we were able to create spontaneously. Later, we learnt a bit of repertoire from the piece Grand Finale. Hofesh’s choreography was very challenging as he makes dancers go from states of complete relaxations to very tense and shaky movements. This is what makes his work so original and truthful. We finished with a couple of questions we had prepared for our teachers. We learnt a lot from the dancer’s past training and experience working with Hofesh and his style. This was a very inspiring experience, which taught us a lot about Hofesh’s style and ourselves as dancers.

View the Grand Finale trailer below

BFI award for Block 4

By Ernie Allesch-Taylor, Block 4

My love of filming started with an app called Video Star. When I was 6 years old, it was the coolest thing to have, so I used to record endless amounts of video. Then I got interested in the editing side using a software called IMovie. When I started at Dunhurst I came to realise acting and being on camera wasn’t my thing – what I really enjoyed was script writing and sharing my thoughts and ideas through my own stories. In Dunhurst we had school productions and everyone got involved. I did it for a year or two but didn’t like being on stage that much. Before I left Dunhurst Simon Kingsley-Pallant said I could help with the stage crew, so from then on I helped with costumes and lighting.

I started researching courses I could get involved in to widen my knowledge and came across the Young Film Academy. I found out they were going to start hosting a two-week film course at St Catherine’s, Bramley and this really appealed to me. Last year I went for one week and managed to win an award held at the British Film Institute (BFI) you can watch that film below.  This summer, I took the two-week course and I learnt a lot more (as well as winning another BFI award) – my interest has turned into something I want to do for the rest of my life. While I was at St Catherine’s I got told the film I made last year was going to feature at the Berlin Film Festival and that I would go to Berlin on the 21 September. I am so excited as I will meet lots of keen film makers and watch other films to give me new ideas.

I guess my overall ambition is to win an Oscar – if only so I can invite Simon K-P to the awards ceremony because I’ve been promising him since I was about ten years old! Bedales have really helped me, giving me ideas for films and better opportunities to get involved with what I love to do. The LAMDA programme has also taught me how to engage with the actors even if I’m not keen on acting myself.

Space and Time explored via theatre

 

By Jamie Murphy, 6.2, Drama Don

Inspired by their stimulus of ‘Space and Time’ Block 5 students recently performed their BAC devised pieces and the two groups took radically different paths.

The first piece, after looking at the David Bowie song Space Oddity, was an exploration of addiction, mental illness and loss, while the second investigated the lives of the astronauts that walked on the moon after looking at the book Moondust.

While both groups utilised physical theatre and naturalism to explore their themes, their narrative styles were markedly different. The first group devised three distinct vignettes that shared themes, while the second group chose to present a more linear narrative, seen through the eyes of the interviewer (who wrote the biographical novel) who witnessed the moon landing on television.

Both groups’ ingenuity, theatrical awareness and talent were clear throughout their pieces, which were evidence of how interesting and distinct devised pieces can be, even when ostensibly based entirely on the same stimulus.

View photos

Mental Health and Arts Education – are we missing a trick?

By Phil Tattersall-King, Director of Drama, Dance and Bedales Arts Programme

Hot on the heels of the Prime Minister announcing that the government is to reform mental health with a particular focus on young people, a new report from the Culture Learning Alliance (CLA) has confirmed that taking part in arts subjects can help children to improve their academic and social skills, and to express their ideas. On the face of it, these are pretty much distinct events, but I would argue that perhaps they shouldn’t be.

One in four people has a mental disorder at some point in their life, and young people are affected disproportionately; over half of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75% by 18. To this end, the government is to provide additional training for teachers, an extra £15m for community care, and improved support in the workplace. Meanwhile, at the launch of the CLA report Imagine Nation: the value of Cultural Learning, president of the Royal Academy of Dance Darcey Bussell called for ‘physical literacy’ to be taught four times a week, and for protection and expansion of the arts curriculum in schools. The CLA observes that we have seen a decline in the number of children taking arts subjects, a reduction in arts teaching hours and fewer arts teachers employed. In turn, a government spokesperson has stressed the importance of music and the arts for transforming lives and providing opportunities.

For my own part, I wonder whether schools, and the arts in particular, might have an important role to play in the development of good mental health in young people, and offer government an educational option beyond dealing better with the obverse.

All over the world, staff and students in drama departments strive to provide a glimpse of worlds different from the ones we inhabit. Sometimes it’s a better world, sometimes worse – either way, theatre aims to change us as we get lost in the one we have created. The theatre of Bryony Kimmings and the spoken word of Cecilia Knapp do so to raise overtly issues concerning mental health that might otherwise remain hidden, and we have been keen to introduce students to their work. No less importantly, our students are increasingly the producers and thinkers behind theatrical ideas. We regularly stage devised performances, and exam boards all encourage students to devise their own work. The struggles involved with presenting their thoughts in this way have raised the game of a drama student, and made them wiser to the complexities of relationships. I can think of many students about whom teachers in other subjects have expressed concerns that they don’t ‘share’ in class, learning through drama that they can say their piece, and that the world will not end if they are challenged. It is immensely gratifying when, invariably, we find that this new confidence has transferred to their lessons in other subjects.

Whilst my own experience is purely anecdotal, it chimes with the CLA’s thoroughly-evidenced findings that theatre and drama improve young people’s social skills and emotional wellbeing, and that engaging in the arts increases young people’s resilience. The report cites evidence from the UK that art and music-related leisure at the age of 16 increases the odds of civic engagement at age 29 and, according to American studies, that an arts-rich education results in a greater likelihood of voting and participation in a political campaign. It also cites findings from a recent systematic review of relevant literature which found that volunteering and caring are both developed by arts engagement.

The social benefits of such outcomes are pretty much self-evident, but a closer look at the idea of ‘resilience’ – an idea with particular currency in discussions of education and young people’s mental health in the UK – suggests that there is a significant health benefit as well.

Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg draws on the pioneering work of Emmy Werner in developing strategies to help young people develop resilience, which he describes as the capacity of young people to face, overcome, and be strengthened and even transformed by adversity. Werner’s work in Hawaii – in an area with high levels of adult unemployment and substance abuse – found that two thirds of young people exhibited destructive behaviours. Crucially, however, a third did not, and she found that these young people shared important characteristics – a finding reinforced in subsequent research.

Gregg stresses that, amongst other things, resilient young people develop absorbing passions, with their self-esteem boosted by having developed expertise, thus reinforcing the importance of practice and persistence. They have the facility of seeing life ‘as it is’ – knowing that bad things happen and how to deal with them, but also knowing that there are plenty of good things. They also do good, thus benefiting from a boost to their immune system and general well-being, and enjoy a sense of being part of something greater than themselves, such as a philosophy or a cause.

Looked at purely through the prism of young people’s mental health (there are other compelling reasons, of course), there would seem to a health benefit implicit in making arts education more of a priority. I believe that recent years have seen the arts marginalised in government’s enthusiasm for STEM subjects and the wider belief that the value of school is best understood in terms of GDP and economic competitiveness. If Theresa May is really serious about safeguarding young people’s mental health, she might do well to rethink – school is surely about all aspects of young people’s wellbeing, and there is a clear case for understanding arts education is essential in this regard.