Art and culture are the spirit and beating heart of society. From prehistory to the present day, man has felt compelled to communicate, to express themselves, their culture and their society in creative ways. And those voices speak to us through symbols on the walls of caves, ornate paintings on chapel ceilings or political banners, photography and media. In Mougins School Art Department we facilitate this innate human desire to communicate and express. We believe an art education can develop critical thinking skills and a questioning and problem solving approach. This encourages innovation and creativity. Students with this type of creative thinking will challenge the status quo and bring new ideas to the table in whatever field they move into after school.
As part of a rounded art education, we want our students to be inspired and informed by the world around them and have access to what other artists and creators are doing within their field. Therefore we like to explore art beyond the classroom walls whenever possible. Most recently, we took our Year 11 to see the work of the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa at the Picasso Museum in Antibes. You might be familiar with one of Plensa’s public works “The Nomad”, a faceless figure made of a lace of stainless steel letters which sits overlooking the sea from the waterfront fort in Antibes.
The first stop on our trip was a visit to “The Nomad” where we walked inside the crouching figure to get a sense of the size and scale of the sculpture. Students were then given the challenge of sketching this three dimensional sculpture on a two dimensional surface, aiming to create a sense of its form using line.
Our next stop was the museum itself where the first ever retrospective of Plensa’s work was on show. We saw his impressive figurative drawings and wire heads and wondered about the meaning behind his works. Plensa believes in the significance of uniting many cultures, genders, beliefs, ages and ethnicities and this is reflected through his drawings and paintings in which different alphabets, lettering and words intertwine with human forms. He plays with the notion that letters and words can go beyond their usual use as signifiers and carriers of meaning and language. Incorporating alphabets and ideograms from different countries and cultures, Plensa states, “The letters, with their different shapes, are uniquely beautiful and a very interesting metaphor of diversity. An alphabet is a good expression of the personality of each culture. It's a summary of that culture and its most accurate portrait.”
While in the museum, the students sketched and took notes. Then outside we had a group feedback session and had a look round the selection of other sculptures on show. Feeling quite tired by this time, we ended our trip with ice-cream at a local kiosque, a welcome treat at the end of a wonderful afternoon.
Now, back in the studio, students are creating their own work, inspired by our trip. Though Plensa metaphorically embraces different cultures and languages through his work, it is something that Mougins School does literally by creating community and welcoming students from diverse and international backgrounds. It will be interesting to see how our art students will use their own letters, words and languages within their personal work to communicate and create meaning. We hope that you will get to see some of their outcomes in our next online gallery.