One of the many perks of working in a school is that I occasionally get to go on trips to fun and interesting places. This September, myself and my colleague took 25 rowdy Year 11s to London to soak in some culture.
Our first stop was the University of the Arts London, where we got to have a look at some genuine movie memorabilia at the Stanley Kubrick exhibition. As a Kubrick fan, I was pretty excited about this! The staff gave us a fifteen minute talk, explaining what everything was, and giving us an insight into how some of the films were made. I particularly enjoyed some of the promo shots from Lolita, which is one of my favourite Kubrick films.
Next we walked along to The Imperial War Museum, where the kids were given free rein with their cameras. A couple of the boys stuck by me and we walked around getting photographs of war planes, old cars, and all sorts of artefacts from the various wars.
The IWM really is worth a visit. There are five levels in this enormous building, and you get a real idea of how destructive war is – many of the artefacts are scattered with bullet holes. It is amazing to think of how much work went in to planning and carrying out attacks on the enemy, and the intricately designed machines you can see here are fascinating. You also can’t help but feel sad as you walk around and imagine how terrifying it must have been to be involved in such brutal wars.
As impressive as the artefacts is the museum itself; the front of the building is a sight to behold with its domed tower and striking white columns. There are two large canons either side of the long straight path that leads to the door. Inside, the design is, in contrast, modern, and striking in a completely different way. The kids looked at me like I was mad for getting excited about a set of stairs!
In the afternoon, we hopped back on the bus and headed off to The Tate Modern, which truly is one of my favourite places in London. Even the approach to the Tate is fun to look at. I ended up hanging back from the group for a moment just to snap these awesome buildings.
Inside the Tate Modern, there are several free galleries, showing some of the most famous artworks: Picasso, Warhol, Dali… the list goes on and on! For a comprehensive list of artists featured, click here. During this visit, to keep in line with our students’ GCSE topics, we only visited a couple of sections, but I have ventured to more in the past, and I can tell you, there is so much to see, in all types of media, and in many different styles.
Despite my personal artistic styles being film, photography, and sketching, I have discovered a love of unusual sculptures made from fabric, plastic, rubber, and other materials. On a previous visit, I fell in love with the work of Nicholas Hlobo, who creates artworks of varying sizes out of all kinds of material. His striking and unusual creations make me want to experiment, but I’m a little nervous of stepping so far out of my comfort zone!
This visit, discovered two more artists who set off that little spark of excitement in me. The first was Sheela Gowda, whose ‘Behold‘ installation was right up my street! She has placed car bumpers on the walls, and hanging from them and all around the room, human hair has been braided into long ropes. I didn’t realise the ropes were made of hair at first, and learning this impressed me even more.
The second installation to catch my full attention was Magdalena Abakanowicz’s ‘Embryology‘, which is described as “a collection of objects of varying sizes, made of various rough-hewn fabrics and stuffed” on the Tate Modern website. Without wanting to make fun of the artwork (which I genuinely love), it reminded me of potatoes! I stood for a minute or two, taking in the sheer scale of this piece. Although visually quite simple, there was something complex and beautiful about it.
After a great day soaking in the art and history in London, we set off home again. Going on school trips is always mentally draining and I often regret not spending more time in certain exhibitions, but I’m so grateful that I get to visit such interesting places, and see such inspiring artwork as part of my job! How many people get to say they got paid to spend the day in an exciting city, looking at iconic art? Sometimes I really do feel lucky!