Fine Art – Materials and Techniques

Since the beginning of the academic year, full-time Fine Art students working toward Graduate Diploma's and Master's degrees have all been involved in numerous materials-based workshops that serve to inform their ongoing studio work. These sessions not only form the basis of specific study units (such as the Graduate Diploma unit 'Materials of the Artist', which combines specific processes to create a new body of work related to a unique on-site archive resource), but also support ongoing studio practice. Students boost their practical skills, being exposing to traditional as well as experimental techniques, often using unfamiliar material combinations, expanding references and moving individual work forward.

Experimental Concrete Casting

Inspired by College founder Edward James' experiments with reinforced concrete structures at 'Las Pozas', his former ranch just outside Xilitla, Mexico, workshops led by George Charman and David Stent encouraged students to design and construct formworks of their own design, before casting them with concrete. The formworks ranged from complex modular constructions in wood, to complex contoured designs that echoed boat-building or the bodies of musical instruments, to designs using fabric to emphasise transitions between 'liquid' and 'solid' states inherent in the casting process. Students also experimented with adding pigment and different types of aggregate, as well as different finishes.

Tapestry Weaving

A schedule of weaving workshop sessions led by Associate Tutor (and Leader of the West Dean Tapestry Studio) Philip Sanderson introduced students to a range of making techniques, from first beginnings to finishing a tapestry. Initial sessions covered setting up a warp, going over basic techniques (such as diagonals, hatching, blending of yarns, construction of shapes, etc.), through to more advanced experimental approaches using alterative materials to create different surfaces and effects (tufting, knotting, wrapping, and so on). Students were also introduced to the College's Dye Rooms to dye their own coloured materials. All these techniques are there to be tested and extended for the students' own purposes, which has extended to working on machine looms, incorporating stitch, and a whole range of unexpected material combinations!

Extended Drawing

Other workshops and assignments so far this year have related to extended approaches to drawing, ranging from the use of drawing software, techniques of technical drawing, engaging with site (in the grounds of the College) and using drawing as an element of performance. Some workshop sessions have elicited quite physically demanding responses involving collaborative actions and staged gestures.

A Wide Range of Workshops

So many materials and skill-based activities have taken place during the first semester of the year, as well as day-to-day in the studios, that it is difficult even to summarise. Suffice to say that the range of materials being worked with in the studio includes large-scale cardboard installations informed by workshops on colour theory; sculptural forms extending from an initial Short Course focused on carving polystyrene; paintings on canvas informed by workshops that range from surface preparation to techniques in oil; ceramic forms informed by weekly evening classes in the College Pottery studios; incorporation of stone carving into multi-media sculptural forms; and much else besides.