Fine Art @ Nottingham College

online exhibition introduction

Art education has always relied on a circular relationship between staff, students, creativity, resources, studio space and an ‘essential’ yet harder to pin down quality, frequently referred to ‘resilience’. Like resilience, what constitutes contemporary art can be challenging to get your head around and a dichotomous key only takes you so far along the road. Working out what kind of artist you can be is central to the Course philosophy. I also believe the job of any good art school is to question and evolve the shape of this ever shifting creative world. And this is the magic of art education. It is a catalyst to enable creative alchemy. And typically this takes place in the College studio.

The experience of lockdown and the removal of most of the constants in art education has let’s face it, been one hell of a journey. Had this happened at the start of the Course we would have been royally stuffed. Lockdown landing when it did, gave us a sporting chance. Thankfully the students were already embarking on self-determined briefs and were taking increasing ownership of their particular learning journey. With little warning the students were stripped of their workshops, studio, technicians, Library, specialist equipment, face to face teaching and ‘normal’ learning support. They found themselves staring into the sink or swim abyss normally reserved for graduates.

I cannot sing the praises of this cohort and my immediate colleagues highly enough. Working pretty much blindly we cobbled together a communication strategy that suited all. Images of art, feedback, peer sharing, and ideas started whizzing around on a plethora of platforms. It became apparent that one media did not suit all. Adaptability was key. It was also quickly apparent that available resources in terms of DIY home working, were far from fair or equal in terms of what students could hope to achieve. That is before you factor in worry and anxiety due to ill health, job loss, shielding and in some cases bereavement. At times like these making art of any nature is a steep challenge.

The work in this online show is a testament to resilience and resourcefulness. Installations originally designed to a bespoke College space adapted and morphed to the home situation. Students scouted around to borrow local equipment, A garden shed became a canvas for an abstract painting, a greenhouse a spray booth, work normally machined got crafted by hand. And one shielded student had to remotely direct photographs of her work in the landscape. This resilient work ethic has been driven by guts and spirit and it makes me proud of the cohort and what the subject offers.

I would like to warmly thank my colleagues Julian Woodcock, Elizabeth Libor, Jill Benedik and Felicity Ward. Without their individual energy and collaborative efforts on spurring students forward to the finish line, it would have been a most lonely journey.

I am really proud of the quality and range of work on show. I make no claims that the virtual is a substitute for the actual when it comes to the creative arts. But it is a very real part of being an artist today. I can say we all did our very best to meet this challenge head on. And we cannot ask any more of ourselves than that. I sincerely hope you enjoy the show.

Tom Hackett
Fine Art Lecturer
Nottingham College