From Clouds to Desire (“Thematic Relationships” in your visual arts exhibition)

As I’m sure you are well aware, (if you are a 2nd year DP visual arts student) April1 is UPLOAD month.

There are 3 separate deadline dates.

The exhibition files upload deadline is April 20.

I hope all goes smoothly.

My students have already had their final year exhibitions and of course we are hoping that they all do well! We had many discussions about their exhibitions, strengths and weaknesses, and of course the assessment criteria. All of the students explored a number of ideas.

As I hope you all know, a successful visual exhibition does not have to have a single theme.

The coherence descriptor does not refer to a theme, but to “thematic or stylistic relationships”.

I am an examiner and I have come across many weak exhibitions that were weak because of the theme – or at least because the theme dominated and was not explored in any meaningful sense.2

One of my students (in the group who just had their final art exhibition) was captivated by the idea of “thematic or stylistic relationships”.

At the start of the 2nd semester, around about the middle of the first year, she became very interested in clouds – their shapes, their colours, the way they move or hang in the sky etc .

Here in the UK we see quite a lot of clouds, and she started to take photographs and make painted studies of clouds.

This was where her “thematic relationships” started, and she and her ideas and plans for artworks moved on to skies, storms, dreams, sleep and the unconscious/subconscious, motives and desires.

In the end, in the exhibition, there were around eight linked ideas expressed in eleven artworks, including a video that took a lot longer to make than it did to show. There was no “theme” in the sense of a single topic.3

It was more like a journey, or a river.

Each place she reached was marked by drawings, photographs and paintings in her journal, together with a lot of written reflections, notes, ideas, decisions etc.

But the starting point was clouds. She learned about them, she took a lot of photographs of clouds and made some paintings.

She even joined The Cloud Appreciation Society.

 

4

Constable

In terms of investigating artists she discovered the famous 19th century English painter of skies and clouds, John Constable, and we all visited an exhibition of his cloud studies that was held at an art gallery in a little town close to our school. The show was not on when she started on her cloud studies, but it was on before the end of the course and having been able to study the details of some of Constable’s cloud studies she was still able to review and refine some of her pages.

(I have include some photographs of the Constable exhibition).

Of course it’s too early to know how she will do; around July 6th I think is when we will find out.

1829 Salisbury Cathedral

Either way I think her show was a great example of an exhibition that embodied creative links between ideas – and “thematic or stylistic relationships”.

As for John Contsable…

“It is never a sunny day in Constable country – there is always a cloud in the sky. But so accurate are these clouds that awed meteorologists can sometimes calculate the season and even the hour from his skies, which Constable famously called “the chief organ of sentiment” in any landscape. Here, the view is Hampstead Heath ocloud studies paintingn a September morning. But what’s remarkable is not so much the exactitude of observation as the way Constable’s painted shapes materialise on the canvas without resolving into patterns or fixed forms: just like a sky full of clouds”.

 

 

Laura Cumming

See the pictures here. Photographs are my own.

 

LINKS TO CONSTABLE

Cloud Study 1822

exhibtn view

Head in the Clouds: why was the painter John Constable so obsessed with clouds?

Great Works: Study Of Clouds (1822) by John Constable

cloud studies text

Constable’s clouds ‘done with mirrors’

The 10 best… skies in art

Study of Cirrus Clouds

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