ARTicle written by ARTiculation Ambassador & Alumna Meda Povilonytė (Goldsmiths)
At the London Regional Heat hosted by the Courtauld, I was prepared to see the next generation of young art enthusiasts, excited and interested to see what works they were going to present and interpret. I was simultaneously embraced by a wave of nostalgia as I thought of my own experience taking part in ARTiculation in my last year of sixth form, now three years ago. I thought how it had influenced my decision to pursue Fine Art and History of Art at Goldsmiths University and wondered how this experience would change the lives of these young people.
The students began to arrive, making the lecture room livelier with every entrance, and the presenters aligned themselves to their respective seats. The programme was five presentations, followed by an interval and remaining four presentations. Thence presentations were reviewed by a guest adjudicator, who had the difficult job of deciding which two of the students would continue on to present at the London Final at the National Gallery. I was very impressed by the variety of works presented, from contemporary work to the Renaissance and the fascinating approaches took.
The two students who progressed to the next stage of the competition were Emilly Santos for her presentation on Yayoi Kusama’s ‘The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away’ (2013) and Poppy Sendell with her presentation on Jenny Saville’s Branded (1992). First up was Emilly and I empathised with her situation – as I too had been first up – and I was astounded at her energy and confidence. Her interpretation of Kusama’s piece was gripping. She observed the work through a scientific lens, discussing the experience of space and the scientific notion of red and blue shifts, as well as how this affects the spatial experience of light and space in Kusama’s piece as a viewer. Poppy Sendell’s approach to Jenny Saville’s ‘Branded’ (1992) was very personal, as she examined Saville’s paintings in her own artistic work, creating actual wearable pieces inspired by Saville. The pieces are ‘bodysuits’ that shift to shape the body of whoever wears the piece. She discussed how Saville’s work observed the bodily and grotesque. Through the exaggeration of Saville’s depiction of bodies, the notion of inhabiting bodies was explored.
Another student, Qabir, discussed Kara Walker’s ‘Fons Americanus’ (currently on display at the Tate Modern). He compared the dialectics of Walker’s sculpture and the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace. He elucidated Walker’s critique of Western views of colonialism and the contrast of its realities of control and abuse. Then Susannah Scott presented John Constable’s ‘Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ (1833-36). She discussed the shift in Constable’s work from large spanning landscapes, to the small and dense space of the painting, noting this shift as a metaphor for grief.
The adjudicator Dr Emily Mann of the Courtauld gave all speakers heartfelt feedback on the positive aspects of their presentations and encouraged all speakers to keep going. The experience inspired me in my own life to look closer than ever at art and the importance of creating a conversation around art. ARTiculation provided a platform, not only for me, but for many more young people to have a voice.