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).

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Old Bedalian artists in the Archive

By Ian Douglas, Librarian

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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.

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.

Leading lights give inspirational jewellery talk

By Veryan Vere Hodge, Head of Development

The Design Hub in the new Art & Design building was packed with students, Old Bedalians, present and past parents on 9 November to hear the life stories of jewellery experts Joanna Hardy (OB 1974-78) and Shaun Leane.

_dsc6901-cropJoanna talked of starting her jewellery-making life in the Bedales workshop with the help of teacher Martin Box, then becoming a diamond grader and a leading trader in the diamond industry.  She was hungry to learn and even though she was a young woman in a completely male dominated industry at that time, her gender soon became irrelevant.  She was respected for her knowledge and quickly realised that knowledge meant power, which no one could take that away from her.  She further inspired with tales of her extensive travels and going down mines all over the world, her incredible detailed knowledge of gemmology, and her experiences working for Phillips and Sotheby’s. She admitted she was terrified the first time she stood on the rostrum, but that she knew she had to put herself out of her comfort zone to keep developing. Joanna is now an Independent Fine Jewellery Specialist and her application to join the BBC Antiques Roadshow consisted of an email with a photo attached of her on her Harley Davidson motorbike – a good way to ‘stand out from the crowd’.

_dsc6869-cropShaun Leane then took to the floor and explained that he had been a restless child and a little bit naughty, but he found his path when at just 14, his school’s careers advisor helped him onto a foundation course and from there he went on to do a seven year apprenticeship as a goldsmith in Hatton Garden.  The fine examples of his early works were astonishing but it was his friendship with Alexander McQueen (known to him as Lee) that enabled him to put the traditional skills he had learnt to new mediums and push the boundaries of fashion.  His skeleton corset has become an iconic piece, showcased in museums all over the world.

He also talked of his honour to design a piece for Boucheron’s 150th anniversary.  The audience audibly gasped at the beauty of his ‘Queen of the Night’ piece as they did for his gauntlet ‘Contra Mundum’ made in collaboration with Daphne Guinness, which had taken four years to make and had pushed the boundaries of what was technically possible.   He now has his own Shaun Leane collection, inspired by his catwalk pieces and he continues to push the boundaries, working his designs onto buildings.  Both speakers had clearly worked hard during their careers, and this drive was evident in their complete passion for their subject matter.  The talk raised £800 for the John Badley Foundation and huge thanks goes to Joanna and Shaun, and also the BPA Fundraising Committee and Design department.

Find out more about Joanna Hardy here.
Find out more about Shaun Leane here.

Art visit to London Galleries

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On a rosy Saturday morning at 8.30 prompt, an artistic bunch of 6.1 students gathered, before embarking a generously sized coach heading for London. Having arrived, we eagerly entered the National Portrait Gallery with the instruction from Frances and Simon to gather as much information as possible in one and a half hours. The work was widespread, from Andy Warhol’s iconic prints to the penetrating portraits of Lucian Freud. We were even treated to a room filled with the colourful and expressionistic work of Catherine Goodman. From there we headed off to Trafalgar Square and entered the National Gallery, housing over 2,300 works of art from some of history’s most prolific artists. Italian Renaissance paintings from Raphael, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Leonardo coincided perfectly with the period we had just been studying in our art history lessons and the great names such as Turner, Constable, Picasso, Van Gogh and Seurat, gave us atmospheric inspiration for our main painting project.

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‘Africa on the Square’ brought crowds, food and music to Trafalgar square and proved to be a good lunch spot after the visit to the two National Galleries. We then bustled past House Guards Parade, 10 Downing Street, West Minster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, stopping off to see Rodin’s “Burghers of Calais” sculpture, in Parliament Gardens, and onto the Tate Britain on Millbank. Again, the amount of work was vast. Some of the highlights being several rooms filled with Turner’s paintings, an ambitious sculptural exhibition from Phyllida Barlow and large CD-shaped colour experiments from Olafur Eliasson. The trip was a thoroughly enjoyable and productive experience, which we all have the pleasure of reflecting on for our two main projects this year.

By Becky Grubb, 6.1


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.