Session Six: Anyone For Tennis!

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Artist: Helen Barry, School: Our Lady Of Good Counsel GNS

In this class the children are extremely adept at processing ideas. What we have created together so far has demanded an ability to communicate, to edit ideas and images, to research and to be open to participate in time-based installation work. All of these tasks are relatively abstract notions and hard to quantify as ‘traditional ideas of art’. In our previous session, the theme suggested by the class was to do something ‘real’ or ‘realism’ we focused on life drawing and creating a human sculptural form.

In this session we continued to study the human form. With life drawing there is always a sense of the student wanting to just get on with it, to hold the pencil above the page and the image will appear under the control of the hand. This approach will normally lead to much disappointment. The children had focused on proportion in our first attempt at which they did extremely well. This time I wanted to get the children to focus on observation. I invited the model a skilled tennis player to show us a tennis movement and repeat it over and over. The girls had to leave the pencils down and just look at the body in motion. The movement presented a sweeping circular motion of one the arms. The other arm remained straight and made a semi circular movement, joining the other arm above the head before gracefully returning to its starting point by the models side. The torso and head were closely linked with the movement of this arm. The legs had a slight bend and stretched upwards as the two arms met and then the movement repeated itself. It was only after several minutes of looking that we could observe the overall movement. We could see how beautiful and graceful the action of playing tennis actually is. The longer we watched the position the pattern and rhythm of the movement became more apparent and etched into the memory of the artists. At this stage we were able to pick up the pencils and begin to mirror the models movements. A first the marks made on the pages were a little awkward but by keeping the eye on the model allowed a more natural and fluid series of lines to appear on the pages. Some really beautiful pieces were produced and I hoped that the girls had a better understanding of how to observe and really look at something.

We are now half way through my collaboration and I would like us to work towards a specific piece of work. We have options to use the outdoor spaces of the school and potentially create something to celebrate the schools 50 years in 2017. We have been looking at a variety of installation site-specific works to stimulate some ideas. The girls are also very interested in animal welfare so I chose to use animals to further capture observations of movement through sculptural form and how to simplify the object often best captures the essence of something.

I introduced origami and realized how difficult teaching origami to a room of almost 30 people is. Thankfully the girls had been studying geometry hence those mathematical terms helped the process. We also noted that the purple paper was much harder to fold than any other colour! The girls are very fast learners and are always keen to complete the task in hand. With over 30 colourful paper birds I installed the birds in flight in the classroom. The birds are quite close to the ceiling hence it is not possible to see the details but the positioning of each bird have created a series of lines that cannot be confused with anything other than the movement of birds in flight.

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