Summer Exhibition

It was wonderful to be able to celebrate the work of our Fifth and Upper Sixth Form Fine Artists and Photographers for the first time in two years this Summer Term.

The exhibition opening was a great success! Fuelled by some delicious refreshments provided by our wonderful Catering Team, the students were finally able to demonstrate to their family, friends and teachers what has been keeping them – and their teachers – so busy in the Art School.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the show was its diversity in the range of subject matter and media used. Everyone will have their own highlights, but I would particularly like to congratulate our Upper Sixth Art Prize winner, Ruth B, most notably for her charming multi-cat inspired triptych .

Scarlett P and her band’s musical contribution quite literally brought Scarlett’s dynamic and colourful ink painting and drum kit installation to life, creating a wonderful party atmosphere .

Paris Y’s squished faces in glass vessels delighted many viewers with their quirky, slightly macabre humour based upon the artist’s sense of claustrophobia during lockdown.

In fact, much of the A Level work took the recent pandemic as its inspiration, which is not surprising considering that Art is invariably a reflection of the era in which it is created. Our students’ work is equally a reflection of their own concerns, hopes and dreams. It is this highly personal approach which, to me, makes an exhibition such as this so powerful.

This is no less the case with the GCSE Fine Art and Photography on display. It is not possible to mention every student here; I will select just a few to illustrate some of the approaches taken. Mila S’s ambitious Sustainability Wave along with her three monumental portraits are striking and meaningful reliefs using discarded plastic, card and fabric. Several students, including Jeremiah S, Connie W and Jerry W chose to reflect their own cultural identity through their work. Harriet S’s photographs had been buried in earth to suggest a poetic form of decay and decomposition. Lailah P's framed face print series is a striking response to her concerns about the pressure faced by teenage girls through social media. Perhaps most poignant is the oil painting on canvas by Eva B – a shattered image of her uncles in Ukraine, over which Eva has painted bubble wrap as if to protect them from harm.

The students whose work is exhibited here have all had to overcome a multitude of challenges; working from home during lockdown limited their opportunities to experience a range of media, and they were unable to share ideas and learn from each other in the normal way. However, these challenges led to considerable breakthroughs and some original and thought-provoking creativity. The abstract painter Gerhard Richter, referred to by Evlin M in her A Level work, is quoted as saying: ‘Art is the highest form of hope.’

In times of adversity many artists have found the creative process to be a therapeutic, cathartic and positive way to make sense of the chaos life can throw our way. I would like to think that this exhibition provides us all with hope for the future, inspiring and paving the way for our next generation of aspiring artists and photographers. Congratulations to everyone who participated and thank you to everyone who provided invaluable support.

Judith Renfrew, Head of Art.