Grade 11 art students are looking with their eyes, hands and mind in order to investigate who and what they are. They are experimenting with different media, techniques and the visual elements and principles to explore how they perceive, communicate and express their visible appearance as well as the ideas they have about themselves. Between now and December they are creating nine separate self-portraits. At least three of the ‘portraits’ are to be from direct observation the rest should show a creative and imaginative, novel or unusual approach to the idea of ‘self’.
While these practical experiments are taking place, we are also delving critically into what art is. This of course sets a path of inquiry, and we ask ourselves further questions. Why are the arts important? What are the standards by which we judge art? Does the artist have a responsibility to reflect the values, beliefs and attitudes of his or her time? And place? Is it possible for artistic expression in visual arts to take the place of words? What do we expect from art? Truth? Provocation? Beauty?
Now who says artists have a free and easy time?
By Stephanie Wintjes, Art teacher