From Monet To McCahon

November 11, 2019 at 9:42 AM

This term, our boys in Year 6 have been looking at ‘how we express ourselves,’ specifically exploring the central idea that ‘our world can be expressed through visual arts.’ They asked, ‘What is art, where is art and how is art communicated?’

As cultural documents, works of art provide important insights into both past and existing cultures, helping us to understand how others live, have lived and what they value. With this in mind, the boys have been exploring the many and varied styles of art, and looked at mediums from painting to sculpture. Through their research and discussions, they came to learn that over the centuries, society and particular periods in history have influenced the nature of artistic works, and the way in which they have been used to communicate ideas and feelings.

Above all, they have come to understand that the making, creating and appreciating of art is a personal experience.

To support their unit of study, the boys embarked on an enriching experience at Auckland Art Gallery last week, exploring the theme of personal storytelling through artwork, with a special focus on the work of Colin McCahon, a current major exhibition. The programme was split into three sessions with each group each taking part in gallery session with an educator, a studio art lesson and a self-guided gallery tour to view the wider works. During each activity, staff, parents and the gallery educators discussed with the boys some of the diverse ways that artists create art to tell their personal story.

Colin McCahon is widely recognised as New Zealand’s foremost painter. Over 45 years, his work encompassed many themes, subjects and styles, from landscape and figuration, to abstraction and his iconic use of painted text. With the gallery educators, the boys took a close look at the McCahon’s  ‘Landscape themes and variations’ and then, in complete contrast, viewed an abstract work, ‘FrenchBayDarkly’ by John Reynolds – an aerial perspective ‘mental mapping’ that imagines McCahon’s journey and emotions on a day he went missing in Sydney in 1984. The contrasting themes and style of work prompted plenty of discussion amongst the boys.

In the practical art session, the boys were encouraged to think about ‘their’ Auckland – what it is about the city that’s important to them personally. It was also suggested that they think of a letter or word that could be incorporated into their work. Using a template, they were first challenged to put down their ideas and discuss them with a friend before embarking on an artwork in a medium of their choosing. From watercolour, to pastel, pens, brightly coloured dyes and cut collage, their works were very individual and told a personal story!

The gallery visit encouraged the boys’ curiosity, awareness and understanding in the arts, helping develop critical thinking skills that are transferrable to other learning environments. Interaction with the art works opened opportunities for discussion, enabling the students to articulate and share their own artistic insights with enthusiasm and confidence. The visit certainly fired up the imagination and the boys are now keen to put their learning into further practice back at school!

Our sincere thanks to the parents who accompanied the boys to the gallery. As always, your assistance is greatly appreciated!

Back to News List