At Durston House the Art Department values a spirit of individuality and encourages the boys to recognise the uniqueness of their own creative imagination. It challenges them to engage with a subject that is a rich and stimulating means of learning, whatever their level of skill or potential as an artist. From an early stage, the progress of their artistic journey allows the boys to discover and make concrete what they observe, feel, think and imagine, and, through a developing appreciation of art in an historical and cultural sense, gain a greater awareness and understanding of themselves and the world around them.
While Art projects in Pre-Prep often focus on experimentation and an exploration of art techniques, they may also share links with other subjects, allowing a further understanding of those areas through a creative medium. For example, the study of Science helps the boys to understand facial and body proportions; shape and symmetry in Mathematics inform their work with Kandinsky and symmetrical pattern-making; a knowledge of the Aztecs inspires the making of traditional Mexican artwork; and Aboriginal dot painting has been introduced to enhance the boys’ learning of Australia. So, too, participation in school workshops and outings to local museums and galleries help expand the boys’ knowledge and appreciation of art.
Art in Junior School continues to share strong cross-curricular links, particularly with the Humanities and the study of Ancient Egypt and Greece. However, there is now an increased focus on technical skills as the boys investigate colour application, drawing onthe use of different types of mark-making for outline, shading and toning, as well as computer-based work and modelling techniques involving a variety of media. Much of the work is set in the context of the study of artists such as Henri Matisse, PieterMondrian, Paul Klee and Tom Phillips. In Year 4 Art is taught in the Art Room at Main School by a specialist Art teacher. Topics include the study of film-making and visual storytelling, which share links with English and is complemented by a joint outing to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios.
Looking is a skill that needs to be taught, and Art in Middle School focuses on the development of the boys’ observational drawing and compositional skills, viewed through the medium of still-life art and featuring the work of Gerald Murphy, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Vincent van Gogh and Georgia O’Keeffe. The boys continue their experimentation, employing traditional wet and dry media, as well as digital interpretation using the Art Room computers. There follows an examination of movement in art, and artists as diverse as Gerry Keon, Wassily Kandinsky, Umberto Boccioni and Walt Disney animation provide models for each project. The boys investigate still and moving images in photography, illustration and animation, and use both traditional and digital media to experiment with methods and techniques to convey movement, drama and energy in their own work.
Self-image is the theme of the boys’ work. They explore the use of evocative language through stories, fantasy and poems, as a stimulus, to encourage inventive thinking. Portraiture and the imagery of Pop Art continue the quest for self-image, and an outing to the National Portrait Gallery places the boys’ studies into an art historical context. Next, the boys investigate the history of buildings and the use of plans and elevations in architecture, leading to the creation of their own ‘grand design’. In Year 8 the boys are invited to question the meaning and purpose of art, and through an examination of the art historical process to consider their own ideas of what art is supposed to be. They study the development of art from the ancient Greeks to the present day, the influences of both culture and technology, designed to give them an understanding of the place of art in its contemporary setting. Their enquiry concludes with a review of the work of Picasso and Cubism.