Art education must change

Art education must change

by Charles Harris
article from Tuesday 17, October, 2017

As regular readers will know – I have written often about the great difficulty that traditional artists like myself face trying to deliver what the public asks for – art that, whilst challenging and thought provoking, they can still appreciate for its craft and beauty. Being attractive is not enough, skills are required to deliver wonderful thoughts and visions.  I thought in this respect you might like to see a letter, below, that I felt moved to write recently to an educational institution regarding the state of art teaching.

Please feel free to send ThinkScotland your own letters that can be passed on to me.

Dear Sir,

Horace the Roman poet said, “A picture is a poem without words.”

Thus Art allows anybody without writing skills to express themselves articulately with proper established Drawing and that language of Art in the same way our language of English, with its grammar and punctuation, allows others to do this in Writing. However, contrary to popular modernist opinion today, they cannot do this without being properly taught.

In a world somewhat led today by social networking, opinions – charming and endearing although they are – cannot be seen as the same as knowledge, skills, expertise, ability and experience. For example, the imagination, like a child let loose in confectioners, staring at sweets and chocolates, is often spellbound by the brightly coloured wrappings and the decoration, but this is not Art. Nor should it be taught as such. Bright colours and decoration alone are not Art but are mere decoration and after the first experience of the imagination, what follows naturally is a huge understanding that beauty is more than just flashy metal paper; and the labours of proper academic traditional Drawing are the backbone of Art, whose pursuit led to the huge discoveries in the progress of Mankind.

With the absence and loss in the past fifty year of such teachings, particularly in the last twenty-five years, we have seen absurdity set back that progress, for the skills learned were always previously transferrable. Thus to write to me saying there are ‘no plans to alter the existing teachers’ standards’, is to state in the reality of progress, we will not develop.

History will, eventually, hold these persons accountable. I do believe you have the opportunity to change and reform the farce that has been modern art-based education and rebuild the proper instruction that has been absent for so long. While I, for one, will be happy to assist you accordingly.

The alternative is foolishness. The current situation without the proper teaching of Drawing is a mess. Nothing can come out of it except yet another mess in the future. So I must advise you in the strongest possible manner of the need for these educational standards with reference to Art should not remain the same and should not blindly continue to follow the repeating patterns of trendy fashionable conceptualism, which offers no transferrable benefits.

In Music for example, in 1952 an apparent experimental composer made a ‘recording’ of ‘4 minutes and 33 seconds’ (the title) of an orchestra sitting in complete silence, instructed not to play anything at all, and with only the ambient sounds and the enveloping silence being captured and recorded. Since then this nonsense has been acclaimed as another ridiculous template for modern art and slavishly copied. And in more recent times we have seen the modern media promote other stupid things claiming them to be artistic icons, created out of pickled sharks, sheep preserved in formaldehyde, bales of straw and piles of bricks, not to mention unmade beds, tents and canned human excrement.

All for the benefit of a relatively few privileged and elitist people and not for the general population.

So, no fine phrases or public-recognised examples, regardless of claims of civic responsibility in teaching, can, therefore, alter the plain truth in this reality, no matter how well-intentioned. in the subject of art education, these existing poor modernist standards must change and  I will be happy to continue to assist and support this ongoing process.

Yours Faithfully, 

Charles Harris MA BA

Photo: A Scottish landscape painted in situ - not from photographs - by Charles.

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