From early civilisation, humankind demonstrated an ability and willingness to express itself by manipulating the materials of the world. An urge to make our lives better, practically and emotionally, by transforming the world around us. We built made pots, made tools, made clothes, painted, cooked and later built houses… But these weren’t just practical efforts – we embellished and we let our emotions be seen in what we made.
Creativity is at the heart of everything we do when we connect our hands, heart, our head.
The ability to make art is in all of us. In recent history though, art has become a commodity – and with that comes a hierarchy. We see “good” and “bad” art, “great” and “less great” artists.
But art and artists are still everywhere. They designed the chair you are sitting on, the clothes you are wearing, the furniture around you, the building you are in. They created the game on your phone, the images on the tv, the art in the gallery and the car on your drive. Artists shape the way we are – they put ideas into our heads, and objects into our hands.
So which artists should we look at in primary schools? Try asking a slightly different question. Instead of asking “Which artists shall we look at?” ask “Which artists shall we look to?” and see if that changes the way you think.
Look widely, and also look locally. Look around, and ask: who made, who designed, who built, who drew? Architects, designers, crafts people too.
Juxtapose. Search out local artists that are relevant to your community and put them next to “great artists”. Not to establish a hierarchy but to compare and contrast. What do they have in common? With each other? With us? What do they tell us about how or why humans make art? What are they trying to do?
Visit local galleries and museums, and access collections from centres further away. Explore your local environment and how it has evolved, and look for ways artists have helped shape that evolution.
It’s always good practice to look at more than one artist – the differences and similarities between them opens up conversation and introduces the idea that there are always many ways to approach a project or idea. Try not to make value judgements that reinforce perceived hierarchies.
And of course, as matter of principle and not last resort, the artists you look at should be as diverse as possible in every sense.
Be brave, get excited, get out there and find artists who excite you, and fill your pupils with the power to do the same.