Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Contrasting Bodies: Art Workshop at the Pitt Rivers

The day long workshop 'Contrasting Bodies' was run this autumn by Salma Caller (Adult and Secondary School Art Education Officer at Pitt Rivers Museum) and Adrian Brooks (Joint Oxford University Museums Art Education Officer).

Contrasting Bodies Artwork © Pitt Rivers Museum
This workshop is organized once a year for sixth form art students to explore Western and Non-Western representations of the body using the Oxford University Museum Collections. Each year an artist is invited from a different cultural background to explore ideas about the body, identity, beauty, anatomy and proportion and how the body is represented in art.

This year artist and illustrator Anna Bhushan came to the Pitt Rivers to work with sixth form students from local Oxfordshire schools. Students worked collaboratively with Anna, exploring how the body is represented, protected, controlled, altered, ornamented and embellished across cultures.

Anna Bhushan graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2004. She now divides her time between London and New York. She also teaches at Cardiff Metropolitan University at the Cardiff School of Art & Design. Anna has won numerous illustration awards and has illustrated several Folio Society publications, including The Bhagavad Gita and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

Students explored the Pitt Rivers Museum looking for objects that represented the human body literally or metaphorically, searching for materials, forms and patterns that were used to alter the body in some way. Sketching, taking photos and notes, their visual research was then taken back to the workshop to be used in image making. Working with a limited palette of metallic colours of silver and bronze, black, yellow, red and white, we passed our templates round and round, back and forth, each person adding, taking away, altering and developing each one as it came to them.

Anna describes the process in the workshop:
 Each image began with a projection of a Persian anatomical drawing that was traced. We then responded to this ‘template’ working collaboratively and drawing into it, on top of it, around it. Sometimes this felt like an opening up of the body, other times as if we were clothing, decorating or altering it. Some of them were approached a bit like the consequences game (exquisite corpse) in which bizarre and unexpected characters emerge.

You can see some of these intriguing collaborative images here.

Contrasting Bodies Artwork © Pitt Rivers Museum
Contrasting Bodies Artwork © Pitt Rivers Museum

Salma Caller
Adults, Communities and Secondary School Education Officer

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