Returning, Reminiscing, Revealing: ARTiculation Heat at The Courtauld Institute

By Harrison Goldman, ARTiculation Alumni 2012

It is an interesting feeling when you return to your old school. Especially when the events you took part in are being repeated. However, in this case I found myself return to my alma mater for it’s first hosting of an ARTiculation heat.

Whilst at The Courtauld I was ever grateful for my participation in ARTiculation some years ago. The experience to talk freely about a piece of art you love is invaluable. Naturally I was overjoyed to hear that my university would host a heat of the competition that certainly influenced my degree of choice and future career.

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A busy lecture theatre was spoilt by talks covering a broad range of artworks. Cyndey Lovett Downey kicked off the day with a bold eye-opening presentation about the photography of Nan Goldin. We learnt how the 1980s witnessed both a colossal change in art and society as a whole, and that Goldin’s work illustrated “a life [previously] kept quiet” in modest Britain. Ruby Rogers then transported us back almost a century to the time of the Great War, discussing Paul Nash’s iconic The Menin Road. Ruby suggested how this was Nash’s visual protest against the globalization of war and made the clever comparison of the flying birds resembling fleets of aircraft droning the skies.

Alex West, one of the heat’s winners, spoke passionately about her favorite work at The Tate Modern, Ed Ruscha’s The Music From the Balconies. Alex chose a piece many of us would overlook, but thoughtfully conveyed the importance of words, having the power to start and end wars and make us live, laugh and cry. Lucy Marquand, uniquely chose a piece of art close to home, so close it hangs on her dining room wall. We were all made aware of the work of Theodor Blake Wirgman, and how lesser well-known artists, despite having real talent, are so often overlooked. The title of her painting Unknown Woman 1914 and others in various collections lead to an interesting conversation of how men dominated the art world at this period.

The heat’s other winner Helen Webley-Brown engaged us all to close our eyes and imagine our favourite possession snatched away. The world of ephemeral art is something many of us aren’t used to, however her talk provided a great introduction into the photography of Berndnayt Smilde, who’s temporary clouds occupy unusual spaces. Sourcing inspiration from Dutch historic landscapes and through the medium of photography, Helen spoke how art can capture a moment that would be otherwise lost forever. After the interval, Tom Penney spoke about Rothko and the power of bold stark canvases, which he convincingly compared to lunar landscapes and the sense of isolation experienced by Rothko evoked though his restricted palette.

Political propaganda has been around for centuries, however Afsana Shahajahan spoke about a North Korean poster produced only several years ago. She highlighted how the image projected of an abundance of food and the somewhat plump figures give an outward impression of positivity and national security, along with how the bold colours of the various fruits and vegetables had iconographic meanings to the North Korean cultural identity.

Moving further back in time, Manisha Bhogal recounted the story of dragging her family around the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She was enthralled by Charles Demuth’s I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold 1928, and informed us of the artist’s inspiration – a poem – and highlighted the links between literature and art, and revealed how colours used within the artwork directly related poem’s wording.

Similarly, Lucia Tremonti took the audience on a journey, this time a pilgrimage to The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Her physical and emotional experience allowed us to consider how it is good to look back and reflect on a time prior to today’s advanced technology,  and the meaning of journeys taken by past pilgrims for over a thousand years.  Finally, we were brought back to Modern Britain by Emma Tucker who’s analysis of the sculpture Reclining Figure by Henry Moore explored the chosen pose to depict humanity’s pain and suffering after the Second World War twinned with a form of elegance that represented Europe’s rebirth and renewal.

Congratulations to all the speakers involved. I’m sure, like myself you’ll enjoy being a part of the ARTiculation network as it continues to grow.

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