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.

Advertisements

New Views playwriting enrichment

By Oscar Clark, 6.1

During our Monday morning New Views enrichment session, we had the pleasure of working with playwright and poet Deborah Gearing.

Deborah led us in three main writing exercises. Firstly, we each described our journey from our bed to the session, each with a different focus on a particular sense, mine for example was smell. This really opened our eyes to the different sensory perspectives you can use to give a new scope on events, beyond the standard focus on sight.

The second exercise was very much a continuation of this one, with the addition of a new context, all of us writing a statement given to officials by a victim of the wildfires happening in California. This more concrete foundation for the writing proved challenging, it being difficult to get into the mind-set of the kind of character who has gone through this kind of event, but, with direction from Deborah, we formed some believable statements, each with a very interesting and different narrative perspective.

After this we experimented with the creation of characters, using a chosen photograph as the inspiration for a character then having to make up responses to questions Deborah asked us, thus turning a photograph into a three-dimensional human being with a backstory and ambitions. We repeated this exercise and were left with two characters of different backgrounds, eras and ages but both being fleshed-out tools for the concluding exercise. We tried to bring the two characters together in a scene, in doing so breaking the rules of time and space, and create some kind of conversational interaction between them.

It was an extremely beneficial session, giving the five of us firstly, an insight into challenges that face playwrights, but more importantly an insight into the techniques they use to overcome them. On behalf of myself and my classmates, I would like to thank Deborah for her help. We are all looking forward to our second session after Christmas.

 

Band Night in the Quad

By Imogen Mayhook-Walker, 6.2

Photos by Eva Du

Last Thursday it was Band Night in the Quad. After a week and a half of intense preparation, all the students involved, including myself, performed to a full house.

The highlights were undoubtedly Safi Kazim’s opening and closing numbers, and Natural Woman, performed by Millie Bolton. Raffy Henry not only delivered a haunting performance of Like Gold but he also was there for every rehearsal to ensure everyone sounded perfect in the studio.

There were also some outstanding new performers; Lara Rippinger’s performance of Unstoppable was one of the stand outs of the night and Miranda Woods-Ballard delivered a great performance of Figure It Out by Royal Blood.

Band Night is always one of the highlights in the Bedales Calendar and this year did not disappoint. Musicians including Kai Macrae, Monty Bland, Minna Hall and many more gave up so much of their time and performed with so many different people.

A huge thank you to Rod for all the work he put in to building the stage and running the tech throughout the show and a well done to everyone involved for a great night, but especially to Neil Hornsby whose tireless work and encouragement led to such an amazing show.

‘Enter the Dragons’ review

By Meg Allin, 6.2 and Drama Don

Enter the Dragons by A&E Comedy House was a hilariously truthful telling of a journey through menopause. This half mythical show was delightfully interrupted by fourth wall breaks saying things like “no just do the next scene!”

The show’s amazingly detailed costume and clever lighting added to the whimsical feel and showed the childishness in everyone- audience and actors. There were so many moments that had everyone clasping their hands over their mouths in laughter. This show was the funniest I’ve seen for a while!

It may seem for a certain demographic but it expanded across all audience members making even the young man next to me laugh in agreement. The show was not compulsory for Drama students but I think anyone who didn’t see it should (and do) massively regret it.

On the website the style of the piece is describe as “Think Mighty Boosh runs the Women’s Institute”, which I love and I think is completely accurate. It wasn’t all giggles however as of course the two women took a more serious tone to get a meaningful message of hope across. A quote that stuck with me was “to age is to live, to live is to age”.

It was performed with such intelligence that you could enjoy it with ease and still feel like you’re watching something worthwhile and meaningful. The light heartedness of the piece seem to only make it more meaningful as the audiences laughed along side the actors, pulling them in from start to finish.

If you don’t see this show (it is touring) then you are sourly missing out because if I were to recommend any show out of the ones Bedales has been lucky enough to have so far- it would be this one.

Gecko workshop review

By Aidan Hall, 6.1 and Drama Scholar

Last Wednesday, a member of Gecko Theatre Company came to Bedales, hosting a workshop around the physical theatre company’s process of creating their shows (devising). Throughout the three hours, the Sixth Form Theatre students were exposed to an incredibly unique and engaging art form, one that transcends the boundaries of standardized and archetypical theatre.

Starting with a vigorous warm-up of ambitious stretches and sets of movement that forced students to realize the athletic competence needed to be an effective member of Gecko.

The core of the workshop contained exercises that concentrated on focus, attention and readiness, along with several devising exercises that, by the end of the workshop, left students creating their own work in pairs and eventually in large mobs and yet these groups managed to all operate and flow throughout each other, creating this immersive ‘hive-mind’ experience for both performer and spectator.

Starting with a vigorous warm-up of ambitious stretches and sets of movement that forced students to realize the athletic competence needed to be an effective member of Gecko.

The core of the workshop contained exercises that concentrated on focus, attention and readiness, along with several devising exercises that, by the end of the workshop, left students creating their own work in pairs and eventually in large mobs and yet these groups managed to all operate and flow throughout each other, creating this immersive ‘hive-mind’ experience for both performer and spectator.

It is important not to stereotype when one describes Gecko as being a physical theatre company; the beauty of their work is not just within the bodily movement of each performer, but the surreal environment created by the total commitment of performers, designers and directors alike. It was an amazing opportunity and experience to work with such an internationally acclaimed and original company.

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.

Sixth Form Show perspectives

Bedales Sixth Form Show 14th October 2018 (Photographer Jack Offord)-7703

By Hayley Ager, Head of Drama and Liz Wood, Head of Dance

We welcomed Temper Theatre Company this autumn as a company in residence to collaborate with Bedales and work with students who successfully auditioned to be part of the Sixth Form show. Their combined work, the physical theatre piece Kin, was performed prior to half term. Certain students will then be reworking this into a performance to tour around schools in Dubai in the upcoming exchange trip which Liz is running as part of the enrichment programme. We are incredibly proud of the students for their professionalism and engagement in the project which really saw them, as in real life, devising an original piece of physical theatre as a company. We were also very impressed with the company whose artistic vision, passion and devising skills were the perfect combination for our talented students and what he had in mind for this project.

By McCauley Fischer, Putney Exchange Student

The Sixth Form Show was full of many types of talent and creative choices. The audience entered a theatre filled with a thin layer of fog from a smoke machine, while live music played until the house lights dimmed for the start of the show. The fog allowed for a unique use of light to represent technology and a range of other things from mood to large amounts of water. The show, which centred around inhabitants of a town where a dam threatened to overflow, touched on themes of human connection with the earth and each other as well as communication. It conveyed how technology effects these things, at times showing a light-hearted reality and at times a harsh one. I found the physical theatre very convincing which fully immersed me into the story.

The main group of friends in the story had a similar effect for me because of the convincing portrayal of genuine friendship and excitement by the actors. I felt like they could be kids in any town that anybody in the audience could know. This was a device used throughout the show; the universalness of the characters and their behaviour was effective in getting me invested. The live music throughout the show by some incredibly talented sixth formers really brought it all together and made the show. It was a fun and thought-provoking evening of entertainment.’

By Eben Macdonald, Block 3

I believe that the meaning of the Sixth Form Show, Kin, is that humanity is forever arrogant and ignorant and that social media and this common sentimental social dependence which many people have is damning to society.

This is because the people in the play are constantly warned by the Public Service that there is an imminent breakage of the local dam, which will cause severe flooding and will be very serious. However, they frequently ignore these calls. There is a scene where, during a loud and exuberant party someone receives a call, but because of the noise they are unable to hear it. They even say dismissively over the phone, “Sorry, I need to get back to my friends”, which I feel conveys how damning this social sentimentality is. They could have heard that call and reacted, but they were too busy partying.

Also, a significant feature of the play is that the characters are frequently buried in their phone. During the play there are scenes of impressive choreography where the characters are looking straight at their phones. This, I feel, is meant to convey how social media consumes us, dominates our lives, and how depressingly addicted to it people are. Wherever the characters move, even when the movement is complex and choreographic, they’re buried in their phones.

When the dam at last breaks, there is a long scene showing the characters drowning, grabbing each other, thrashing about and being tossed around as the city is inundated. After that there is a scene that shows a few friends enjoying a flippant and sentimental conversation, of course on their phones. This, I feel, shows that humanity is arrogant and will never learn from its mistakes, as if they had not been so devoted to social media, they might have saved themselves.