International Journal of Art & Design Education

2013 - Volume 32 Number 1

Making Meaningful: Intention in Children's Art Making (pages 6–17)


Children's art work has often been the subject of study by researchers seeking to gain insight into the role of art making in children's learning and development. However, rarely are children's own explanations of their art making used to inform these studies. Children's perceptions of their own art making are important for research and practice in art education, because their artistic experiences and motivations determine how they will engage in and respond to art making activities. This study used ethnographic methods to learn about the art making that took place over the course of one year in an elementary school art room, and to gain insight into the students' experiences and perceptions of art-making activity. Data were analysed using a socio-cultural framework. By asking children why they made art and exploring children's own explanations of their art making, this study reveals some of the important intentions that children bring to their artistic activity, and some of the ways that children make meaning through art making.

Older People Learning through Contemporary Visual Art – Engagement and Barriers (pages 18–32)


This article addresses how older people understand and engage with contemporary art in the gallery context – whether there is something unique to the art, the format of the visits, the pedagogical approaches used by gallery educators, the social contact, or a combination of all these factors. It also addresses the psychosocial barriers to engagement. It draws from ‘Contemporary visual art and identity construction – wellbeing amongst older people’, a two-year research project funded by the cross-research council New Dynamic of Ageing Programme. Over 21 months, 43 participants aged 60–92 made three visits to contemporary art galleries in north-east England. The potential for art galleries to develop lifelong learning opportunities for post-retirement people has implications for the cultural, health and voluntary sector.

Creativity, Art and Learning: A Psycho-Social Exploration of Uncertainty (pages 33–43)


What makes it possible for artists to stay with the anxieties and uncertainties of the creative process? This aspect of an artist's development is rarely theorised or addressed despite it being an essential aspect of creative practice. It is a capacity, similar to tacit knowing, that is gradually acquired and learnt, and cultivated over time as part of the process of practising art and being an artist. The role of tacit knowledge as a key aspect of fine art education is well documented and is a learning experience that artists are familiar with. However, what tends to get focused on in discussions about tacit knowing are the practical, usually physical and technical, aspects of learning from experience to the exclusion of a range of mental or psychological capacities that are also a fundamental part of the tacit knowing process and vital to the learning necessary to be an artist. These mental capacities, which include being able to tolerate high levels of excitability, periods of nothingness, chaos, uncertainty and not-knowing, are also, I suggest, passed between tutor and student as a form of tacit knowledge. This article draws on the experience of one artist, both as a learner and as an emergent practising artist, in developing this ability. The role played by art tutors in supporting student artists to develop a capacity to stay with the anxieties of the creative process is also explored.

Exploring the Socio-Politics of the Greek Debt Crisis in a Primary Art Classroom: A Political Cartooning Project (pages 44–54)


This article reports on an event-driven case study which took the form of a curriculum intervention in order to examine how a class of fifth-graders understood, interpreted and commented visually on the Greek debt crisis. Considering art education as a safe place where students can critically investigate through relevant visual culture genres socio-political issues that affect their own lives, the author developed and implemented a political cartooning project. The students were engaged in making political cartoons about the Greek debt crisis and interrelated socio-political issues and events. A finding of the study was that the students located, identified and labelled the multiple facets of the Greek crisis in a way that was meaningful to them. They employed visual and/or linguistic metaphors as a humorous mechanism to create meaning and emphasised the enormous strains placed on Greek society. The article concludes that the inclusion of the Greek debt crisis in the art curriculum served as a tool for social awareness for the students and connected schooling with society.

Body-Building: A Female Student's Use of the Transitional Spaces of a Painting Degree Course to Explore her Sexual Desirability and Aesthetics as a ‘Grotesque’ Female Body (pages 55–67)


Whilst a part of the fine art degree course is about teaching technical skills and learning from tutor/peer group crits, a larger part is about the facilitation of a ‘safe’ and structured space in which students gain the confidence to experiment with personal ideas, to hone a self-critical reflection and understand who they are as individuals, before being cast out into the world as ‘artist’. In this article I examine the thought processes and decision-making of one undergraduate female painting student. For this student, who struggled to find her own ‘grotesque’ female body image in the canon of art historical works or contemporary popular media, the spaces of the painting degree course created a frame for possible enactments of identity and desire, as well as for playing with roles and practices. Through a mix of interviews with the student, viewing her visual work and written narratives, I analyse how she was able to carve out a space for her visual representation within the institutional frame. My analysis reveals how this student uses the transitional spaces of the degree course to develop creative strategies through which to explore her sexual desirability and aesthetic self. As an individual who felt marginalised from the visual realm of the ‘body beautiful’, the degree course offered an important refuge where she could examine how she felt about her own body and develop a confidence and character to present her body to the world.

Technology, Learning Communities and Young People: The Future Something Project (pages 68–82)


The Future Something Project (FSP), a two-year action research project, was devised to nurture the creative and technological talent of small groups of young people at risk by creating a structured network, mentored and driven by creative professionals exploring innovative ways for the two distinct target groups to work together. The project practice is located within the new field of interaction design and takes a social and critical approach to art and design pedagogy. The external research team found that one valuable way of looking at the FSP enterprise was through the social theory of communities of practice (CoPs) developed in the 1990s by Lave and Wenger. The creation of a learning community as a pedagogical strategy is central to the conception and practice of this project. This article, therefore, sets out to apply an existing theory to a new art and design context together with more general thoughts on learning communities. It explores the potential of new technologies and different settings to effect learning within structured networks and local and virtual communities of practice.

DNA as a Work of Art: Processes of Semiosis between Contemporary Art and Biology (pages 83–96)


When A Genomic Portrait – Sir John Sulston by Mark Quinn appeared in the London National Portrait Gallery's exhibition in 2001/2, the ensuing public controversy over its portrayal raised a number of questions about the representation of a publicly known figure. Because the portrait was the Gallery's first contemporary commission using specialised, scientific procedures in its creation, a number of issues arose surrounding its authenticity. How questions of authenticity are answered depends upon how the viewer reads aspects of scientific coding as it functions within the artistic domain. This is a form of visual literacy that depends on the viewer's ability to lift the veil that operates between coding systems and the context of their use. Literacy in this case is built upon the relationship between visual interpretation and ascribed systems of meaning within the context of their recontextualisations. By playing with the intersections between artistic and scientific discourses, the authors investigate how the representation of identity functions as a polysemy across different semiotic domains. Using visual semiotics to examine the intersections between sign systems across these domains, some of the communication aspects of how new modes of art function in present-day communities are provoked. By illustrating the complexity of this process as a part of transforming expert knowing into pedagogical practice, support is given for improving teacher education in the arts and cultural domain.

Investigating Cognitive Processes within a Practical Art Context: A Phenomenological Case Study Focusing on Three Adolescents (pages 97–108)


A phenomenological approach was employed in order to record and present the lived experiences of three students during a five-hour art-making activity. Theoretical definitions of cognitive processes pertinent to art and design were compared with the descriptions gathered from the students. The research was intended to portray as accurately as possible individuals' experiences in order to ascertain whether there is a possibility for soundly ascribing cognitive functions to art-making processes. The descriptions of students' thought processes reveal the ways with which the selected students approach learning and also offer insights into the possible links between cognition and artmaking. The findings of the study suggest that intuitive and perceptive processes are utilised by the chosen participants in a variety of ways. The consideration of the ordering of visual elements is a process that all participants describe within their art making. The students' visual judgements appear to be a direct response to the art-work being made.

Words for Artworks: The Aesthetics of Meaning Making (pages 109–125)


In this article we introduce a research strategy that involves the making of visual maps by individuals in response to their interactions with artworks. The maps record the meaning-making processes involved in the encounters and provide us with permanent records of otherwise ephemeral experiences. The case study presented here provides data for comparisons between three visits each to two artworks exhibited at the Calouste Gulbenkian Modern Art Centre in Lisbon. We conclude that our meaning-making strategy is important for its own heuristic research value in both formal and non-formal educational contexts, as well as providing an instrument for the training of teachers and museum educators.

Concepts of Art and Interpretation in Interviews with Educators from Tate Britain (pages 126–138)


Educational practices in art museums are determined, to a great degree, by ideas of art and interpretation put into play, consciously or not, by both museums and educators. This article presents the results of research conducted at Tate Britain in which we have analysed the concepts of art and interpretation that underlie the discourses of the educators interviewed in this gallery. To this end we have designed a methodological device, a model that proposes four ways of understanding and interpreting art commonly found in educational contexts. This model has arranged the various conceptions from more visual or perceptual approaches to the most experientially complex as those summarised below: works of art as a visual representation and interpretation as identification; works of art as a message to be revealed, and interpretation as decodification; works of art as an intellectual, historical and cultural fact, and interpretation as an opportunity for critical reflection; works of art as the materialisation of an experience, and interpretation as an opportunity for self-development. We conclude that in interviews with educators working in the Tate Britain different narratives about the idea of art and the idea of interpretation coexist, which in many cases are complementary and in some others are contradictory. Examples of the interviews are presented throughout the article.