The definition of Art is continually in flux. Art is a subject that is responsive to the world around us and evolves to best fit the needs of society. The Oxford dictionary defines Art as “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination” you could argue that this definition is now outdated. The advancements in technology have given the artist an arsenal of new creative means in which to create, disseminate and define what Art means today. The British artist Banksy defines the subject as “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the uncomfortable”, this definition of Art feels more appropriate today. Art should challenge conventional views and lead the recipients of the artwork to question and consider personal views that may need reflection. Whichever definition you affiliate with, it’s important to take note of the American artist James Turnells definition “Art is a completed pass, you don’t just throw it out into the world – someone has to catch it”.
With each cohort of students they have an opportunity to contribute to the above definitions of Art. If they are to challenge these definitions of Art they first must be given the skills to do so. Printmaking, painting, ceramics, photography and digital media are just some of the disciplines which students are taught on the course of Art and Design at the Quest. Students learn a host of traditional techniques alongside new and emerging technology, this fusion of new and old ensures that students pay homage to the past while also embracing the new. As the students’ creative confidence builds in their respective disciplines they have the ability to articulate conceptual ideas and thoughts into tangible artwork.
To deliver a course that is of relevance it is integral that the skills delivered are accompanied by theory that is of relevance and interest to the students. Croydon is a wonderfully cultural and diverse borough, through the themes and topics students are tasked with responding to, we aim to celebrate this. A yearly photography competition tasks students with exploring and documenting parts of Croydon that are of significance to them. Individually these photographs show serendipitous elements of Croydon, collectively they generate civic pride and a sense of place. They are given the opportunity to visually define Croydon, how that is seen and how they can play a role in shaping that view, not only through the lens of the camera but also in a wider context.
Every student that walks into the Art room will be given the opportunity to define what Art means to them. They may produce artwork that is political, abstract, conceptual or surrealist. Whatever it may be they will be provided with the skills, knowledge and space to do so. They will shape the subject for themselves or in the words of the poet Bertolt Brecht “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer in which to shape it”.