Here Comes the Neighbourhood and Symbols and Signs are two of the ten workshops hosted at the Art Gallery of WA by Fibrant, the community arts section of the Bassendean Arts Council Inc. Each of the ten sessions focus on artists featured in the exhibition Picasso to Warhol: Fourteen Modern Masters.
Here Comes the Neighbourhood: 11am-1pm
Fourteen 8-13 year olds cut and collaged for two creative hours at the first workshop of the day. The first of today’s two hour sessions was inspired by Romare Bearden – an American artist who used mixed media to create montages based on his experience as an African American.
While laminated prints of Bearden’s work were being passed around the room for inspiration, the workshop’s attendees soon began experimenting for themselves, creating collages that spoke directly about their own lives.
Each child made a collage from their own special interests, which Kerri Dickfos, Visitor Development Officer, said was the underlying purpose of the workshop. “We’ve asked the kids to find out what they like and put it into art,” she said.
While Bearden’s work often referenced bustling inner-city neighbourhoods alive with a range of characters, the children at today’s workshop drifted into more surrealist scenes to depict the world through their own eyes.
Some chose to portray landscapes, ranging from vivid material underwater scenes to an earthy Australian outback complete with glued-on honky nuts. A key theme was space, and a few boards depicted new universes filled with made-up planets, including the inventive button and birthday planets. Others followed Bearden’s example and compiled their boards with ripped pictures straight from magazines – cats, flowers and jewellery were to be found on various panels, as were the artists’ names pasted from magazine headlines. Pictures also changed with time – one girl’s dotty blue sky switched to being a tablecloth full of breakfast items, including shredded orange fabric inside bottle tops to represent cornflakes. Some even veered into Pop Art territory, with the young artists including logos of famous brands and glossy photographs of celebrities. One forward-thinking collage included a cork so the viewer could hang something off of it, rendering the work three-dimensional.
“The amount of enthusiasm and creativity is unbelievable,” Fibrant’s Cathy Rankin said during the workshop. “There was enough material for them all to make one collage each but some have done up to five. They’ve really enjoyed it.”
The session ended with fabric, watercolour pencils and magazines strewn across the table: all signs of mini artists hard at work.
Symbols and Signs: 2pm-4pm
The second session of the day was Symbols and Signs, which encouraged the workshop’s attendees to experiment with screen-printing and shapes.
The workshop was messy from the get-go, with thick paint being the primary material. The group was instructed to create their own signs using sticky tape to create a minimalist pattern. The aim was to create a Piet Mondrian-esque design with a minimalist pattern of networked lines and spaces. The participants were shown Mondrian’s Trafalgar Square – an iconic painting showcasing the artist’s signature black lines and primary colours. The group then moved onto creating their own personalised symbol. They were told that symbols, unlike signs, have an emotional connection and so were asked to develop a symbol which represented something they would save in the environment. Most drew trees, apart from one, who drew a symbol to stop littering. Using Mondrian’s clean lines and Joan Miro’s simplified shapes as inspiration, the participants reduced their drawings to pure geometry – treetops became circles, a tent became a triangle. Using the screen-printing technique they had learned just before, the group pressed their symbol onto recently primed paper – resulting in an array of symbols and signs on brightly-coloured backgrounds.
The session also drew its influence from two of the exhibition’s other artists: Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns. Both artists experimented with symbols in different ways – Duchamp with his “readymades” turned ordinary objects and products into re-presented art, while Johns transformed ordinary objects into art by reproducing them in painted and printed form.