Tell us a little about yourself—your teaching areas and interests and/or your background and how you became connected to the London Venice field school?
My name is Elizabeth Barnes and I attended the London/Venice field school as one of two guiding faculty members. I have worked as an instructor in post-secondary education while maintaining a professional studio practice for the past 28 years. I have taught at KPU since 2009, in drawing, painting, and advanced studio courses. This is my second time to join Dorothy Barenscott in running the Fine Arts field school. Once again, this experience has far exceeded my expectations.
My personal studio practice is based in painting and drawing, although I also work in sound production and digital media. I am currently looking forward to a 6-month Educational Leave in which I will pursue a project in Mexico and at home in Vancouver. This project will continue my long-time interest in the intersections between art and technology, while also producing work within a self-defined ritual practice, research, and sensory experience of space and history in these two cities. The intensive curriculum of our field school and on-the-ground experience in both London and Venice have been invaluable to my thinking as I prepare for this upcoming project, while also providing much to think about for my return to teaching in January of 2020.
How did you approach the task of teaching and working with students inside and outside the classroom for the field school?
The studio aspect of the field school began with three weeks in our Surrey studio, where students completed two projects informed by the work of two artists whose work they would later see in London on visits to the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain. The focus of this field school was on art and culture in post-war London, moving from the emergence of Pop Art in the 1950’s to the present. Students studied these movements closely in the art history portion of the program, and applied this study to developing their own ideas in relationship to their experience of contemporary art, culture, and fashion. My method of teaching often involves individual conversations with students while in the studio, providing them with examples and encouraging them to take risks and build on their already developed skills and ideas. The work we visited and assigned for this field school was challenging and often very complex. The intensive and experiential aspect of this way of teaching is amazing for helping the students to move their work forward and consider new possibilities. During our travels in Europe I was encouraged by the fact that many students were able to continue making connections to the work they had produced in the studio and the work they were observing in the galleries and museums. Students were required to keep a journal where they sketched and wrote daily, as their ideas and knowledge continued to evolve.
What was unique or memorable about experiencing London and Venice with a group of students already interested in and/or practicing art making?
Travelling with a group meant that we all became much better acquainted and more open to sharing our thoughts. Having closely studied the recent trajectory of London art from modern to contemporary in the weeks before the trip, allowed for a deeper understanding of everything we viewed and experienced in London. The studio investigation into contemporary art, prepared students to move beyond their discomfort with contemporary art and actively engage with the work at the Venice Biennale. Watching students become excited over seeing the actual art they had studied was equally as exciting as seeing the work myself for the first time. It became clear that this trip would change students understanding of art and the way they make it. I look forward to seeing what they produce over the next school year.
Which of the activities during the trip stand out to you? Any special highlights or memorable moments for you?
Each day of this trip was packed with new and exciting discoveries. Our visit to the Tate Modern stands out for me, as it was where students were able to view much of the work they had studied in class, and also featured an amazing and diverse collection of late modern and contemporary art.
Another event that stands out for me was a side trip I took on our free days to visit an old friend in Glastonbury. Glastonbury is a small town in southwest England known for its ancient and medieval sites, including sites of Arthurian legends and pagan mythology. I was able to hike to the Glastonbury Tor, chant at the Chalice Well, and walk in the early morning through the stunningly beautiful ruins of the famous Glastonbury Abbey, which dates back to the 7th century (see images below).
The third highlight was our time in Venice. Our hostel location on the water away from the tourist crowds was a welcome place to relax and take in the beauty of Venice after long days walking. The work at the Biennale was complex and inspiring.
On our final day in Venice I had the once in a lifetime privilege of visiting some of the most stunning exhibits of contemporary painting I have ever experienced. The contrast of this work, rich in historical and political inquiry, and its placement in Renaissance architectural wonders was very moving. This will be something I carry with me and revisit in my pedagogical and personal studio practice for a very long time.