Zach Taylor attends the Abbey Grange Academy in Leeds. He is the first young person to win the Discover ARTiculation Challenge (for GCSE students) to then go on to participate in, and win, the ARTiculation Prize. In May, HENI Talks will be working with Zach Taylor to create a ten-minute film on the Rembrandt portraits in the National Gallery.
When I first saw Rembrandt’s ‘Self-Portrait 1657/59’ in the National Gallery of Scotland, I never thought I would be delivering a speech about it to over a hundred people in a Cambridge University lecture theatre. I study at a state school in Leeds, and I have been so impressed that the ARTiculation programme aims to help young people like me, and from all backgrounds, to discover the relevance of art to their lives. I am fortunate to have visited art galleries with my family from a young age, and was so grateful when I was given the opportunity to speak about an artwork of my choice for the Discover ARTiculation Prize last year.
For the Discover ARTiculation Challenge I chose to speak about Edward Hopper’s painting ‘New York Movie’. Hopper amazes me in his use of stark lighting and the way he depicts solitary figures in contemplative and melancholy positions. The piece was painted ten years after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and in 2018, ten years on from the most recent economic crash, I found myself as one of many young people unsettled by our unstable political world and seeking to find and express our identities in new ways. I feel strongly about what Hopper can teach us about the social depression that can come through poverty and perhaps more significantly, isolation.
After winning the Discover ARTiculation Challenge, I was seeking to further explore identity in art, and when my art teacher encouraged me to enter the ARTiculation Prize 2019 I thought this was a great opportunity to do so. Rembrandt is an artist who has had an impact on me in many ways, from my Dad simply pointing out the incredible way he uses light, to having the opportunity to visit the Rembrandt house in Amsterdam, where I did an etching workshop in his studio. From coming to know Rembrandt’s life and work over my lifetime I feel he’s become something of a friend. I identify with the hopefulness of his younger years and I am aware, like him, that darkness is an integral part of all our lives. I am amazed by the powerful way Rembrandt brings his darkness into the light to create something truly magnificent.
The final in Cambridge was an amazing day for me. I couldn’t believe how far I’d come from giving my speech to my classmates to delivering it to a full lecture theatre in Clare College. As I stood there speaking in front of so many people, with my legs half shaking, I was overwhelmed with the joy of speaking from my heart. It was an honour to meet Tristram Hunt, such a prestigious figure in the art world, and when he announced my name as the winner I really couldn’t believe it. I was shocked to win in the end because the other talks were all so fascinating and profoundly inspiring.
I am deeply grateful to the Roche Court Educational Trust for giving me such an incredible opportunity. I’ve gained so much confidence over the whole process in who I am and how I express things personal to my experience. In seeking to understand these artists and their work, I have also found myself to be passionate about articulating what underlies our common humanity. The competition has been formative in shaping my outlook and hopes for the future. I’m thrilled to have secured a work experience placement at the National Galleries of Scotland this summer and will be applying to study History of Art at university.
Image: ARTiculation Grand Finalists 2019 with Dr. Tristram Hunt, Director, V&A Museum