Talk About Art and Our Environment team up with James Wolfe Primary School

Week 1
The artists we discussed in the first week of our project were Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The children loved the idea of wrapping big objects and said they would like to wrap up the Cutty Sark, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, their whole school and Mr Cowley, their teacher!!! They understood it was about really being able to see the outline and shape of the objects and so seeing them in a new way.   We collected items connected to environment from around our room and outside to draw, including water bottles, packaging, and plants from the garden!

Week 2
The children were really drawn to the work of Senga Nengudi, they connected her work with Black Life Matters issues particularly and were interested in how she highlights racial issues and the materials she used and their significance. We talked about the use of venetian blinds and tights and sand in her work and the use of dancers and choreography around the artwork. For this week’s art assignment, the children drew everyday objects from real life and transformed them using their imaginations, they turned them into magical birds and cartoon characters on the page.

Week 3
Our artist this week was Agnes Denes, a conceptual artist primarily working on the land. The children talked about Wheatfield and the message is sent about world hunger and Tree Mountain. We discussed social art and why the artist would bring in many people together to create the art. For our art assignment we created paper sculptures and learnt some techniques to make paper strong and to build shapes and create interesting effects just from a sheet of paper. Using different types of paper found in the classroom the children made their own paper sculptures, some working on their own and some in pairs, trying to build something that could stand alone and high!

Week 4
This week was all about pollutions and thinking about litter and waste. The artist we talked about was Benjamin Von Wong, and the particular artwork the children were interested in was the worlds tallest clothing closet, or the giant wardrobe. We had a big discussion around where our clothes come from and what is meant by clothing pollution and where do our clothes go to when we are finished with them and the impact of this. The students were keen to include some commentary on clothing pollution in their own environmental project when we get to that stage. For our art assignment this week we used lots of different packaging that the class had collected to collage artwork this week, it included using plastic wrappers from the snacks the children had eaten just before art club! They created collages depicting the effect of plastic waste in our seas, using some thoughtful techniques of layering plastic and placement to depict their thoughts on plastic pollution.

Week 5
What a fun week we had this week, starting off with drawing each other’s profiles and the challenge of being the model, the person being drawn and having to stay still whilst this was happening. The artist we talked about was Ana Mendieta. We had mixed reactions to her work, with some students saying they didn’t like that she used animal blood and others saying it was a good way to shock people and make them think. Everyone enjoyed the art assignment this week, where we used face paints and our own bodies as the canvas to paint scenes and symbols inspired by nature! Some of the children wanted to paint themselves and some worked in pairs, which was great fun. Some of the students wanted to paint Mr Cowley, but he managed to escape… just!

Week 6
Mr Cowley led this session and it looked like great fun! The children collected natural materials and found discarded packaging and non-recyclable materials to create compositions on the page. They used a colour printer to make the work and created some really interesting and varied pieces which comments on the use of both natural materials and human-made materials in the use of art and creativity. The class were really pleased with the results and felt they would like to include these in their finished art work. Its been great to see as we went along the project that the children have been thinking about their own project and how they would like to respond to the inspiration they are seeing when they create a piece for exhibition at West Greenwich Library.   Very exciting!

Week 7
This week was the all-important planning week, although we have been talking about our own environmental art project throughout our sessions and getting excited about what we will make for the exhibition in West Greenwich Library. We had a big discussion around what we wanted to say with our art, what is our message. We discussed what we liked about the artists we had seen over the past previous 6 weeks and who was inspiriting us. We talked about what materials we would use, and what we had available and what we would need to collect or find.

The children were particularly inspired by the work of Senga Nengudi and wanted to base a piece around her work, using found materials and creating a sculpture or structure. They wanted to use old clothing which they would collect to comment on clothing pollution. They also wanted to use natural materials and crisp packets, which they had collected. They wanted to show the contrasts of what they would like to see and what they didn’t want to see.

They also wanted to work to be collaborative, and to include other students in the school and the general public who would see their work.

Our art club all drew their own ideas in their sketchbooks, and we made a list of materials that we would need which everyone would go away and collect. It was an excellent example of artist collaboration, with us listening to each other and everyone in the room contributing ideas.

Week 8
In this session the group’s self directed project started to really take shape. Mr Cowley sourced a large branch which would fit our exhibition space perfectly. The children wanted it to be as tall as Mr Cowley and he succeeded! They used their old t-shirts torn up to wrap around some of the branches, being careful to leave some of the branch exposed, so you can still see what it is. And they created lots of leaf templates for messages which will be included on the sculpture.

Week 9
In the final session we continued to make the components of the final piece which we be placed in West Greenwich library. The children were really excited about sharing this with their parents and siblings at the opening party! And they are excited that their work will be seen by the General Public and that other people can contribute to it. We made our last messages to be hung on the sculpture. They have invited school students out of art club to also contribute and they had written messages about the environment and drawn onto leaves which will also be included, it’s a collaborative piece.

The students had also created a backdrop of collaged leaves made from what they don’t’ want to see; namely non-biodegradable crisp packaging! They crisp packets were hard to work with and wouldn’t stick down which seems appropriate as a non-desirable art material.

When we finished the session, we had all the components of the sculpture, including labels for the general public to add their own messages and tie them to the tree. All that remains is for the sculpture to be assembled and hung in the library. James Wolfe Primary School art club are really looking forward to seeing their work on display, and to seeing the messages that people will add to their collaborative work. See you at the exhibition!