from Ignite, Summer 2021
How did you get into Art?
Morgan [M]: I don’t know really, in 6th form, obviously doing A-Level, it was fun, a bit of excitement there, and then my parents were pretty enthusiastic about it, it was a route they wanted me to go down, and anyway I enjoyed it.
Slade [S]: Yeah, my parents as well, my dad always used to show me art books, and he used to show me Rembrandt’s picture of the return of the prodigal son, and the father hugging him, and apparently, and I don’t remember this, but the family legend is that my dad would show me this and be like, ‘see, he’s getting a big hug because he’s been on the potty’, and so I was literally potty trained with Art History.
Seewoogoolam [C]: That’s crazy!
S: So yeah, it goes way back, to <infant> days.
Bluck [B]: I just really enjoyed art, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I went for an Art Foundation, then decided Art and History of Art was for me.
Hunter [H]: Yeah, in school as well. I mean, I didn’t do GCSE, but then felt like I had missed out on something, so I just went straight to A-Level, and it was my favourite subject from there.
C: Yeah, same, so I did GCSE art, then Art A-Level, then a textiles degree, and then went into fashion. I think it all started when I was drawing on the walls at home, from toddler age.
Who’s your favourite artist/what’s your favourite piece of artwork?
B: I hate this question because it’s really difficult. [general agreement]
M: I’ve got one. Peter Doig, he’s a Scottish painter, he’s brilliant. There’s a painting of his called ‘Blotter’ with a little man standing on a puddle, lots of trees in the background… it’s just a really nice scene, especially because you don’t really know what the man’s doing.
C: I think the artist that comes to my mind is… she’s a weaver, her name’s Ismini Samanidou, and she does these beautiful, organic textures, but she does it on jacquard, so she looks at all of these natural forms and translates them onto fabric.
M: I have others as well, but…
C: Yeah, that’s the only one I can think of at the moment.
M: You’ve got too many to choose from…
B: Yeah, that’s the problem.
What’s your favourite one to teach?
S: That’s a completely different question…
M: I can’t answer that one.
C: It depends on who you’re teaching, I think. You need to cater to the different classes.
S: I mean, often the things I love teaching are not the things I actually like, because they’re works you can say lots about, but you wouldn’t necessarily want them on your wall at home… I put Picasso in that category.
B: An artist that changes someone’s perception about what Art is… that could literally mean anything! But how they think about art, how it switches… that’s a really vague answer.
H: I guess an example is when you’re teaching Year 9 and you show them John Baldessari and you see so many different things, it’s like you’re giving them opportunities to make work in different ways.
S: I think my problem is that my specialisation is medieval art, which we don’t teach, and we don’t actually know the names of most of the artists, so I’d say some of my favourite art is manuscript illumination, by ‘unknown’.
Are there any artists whose work you don’t like?
H: Oh, the guy who did the couple dancing on the beach, by what’s-his-name
M: Jack… Jack Vetriano.
H: Yeah, that’s it. Disgusting.
M: And you see it everywhere as well.
B: I’m going to say, it’s not a personal hatred, but Van Gogh is very, very overly used. In general.
M: You won’t be going to the virtual experience then. ‘Are you Gogh-ing?’ [laughter] I keep seeing it on Facebook.
B: Ah no! Not that!
M: It’s awful.
H: Oh yeah, and Salvadore Dali.
B: Oh, I like a bit of Dali though.
H: I just want to stop looking at Dali.
B: I like Dali, it’s just difficult to replicate Dali well.
H: Yeah, any one of these big-name art superstars, it’s just, they’re old and tired and we should be looking at something else.
S: See, I’m scared to say who I hate, because everyone really loves her. But Freida Kahlo…
M: [to B] Wouldn’t you have said that?
B: No, I’m sticking with Van Gogh. That’s a big statement…
S: Well, I think she’s just too self-obsessed. [laughter] Well, to the extent where I feel she’s not telling us anything about the world, it’s all about her. I just find it too much. And my students are going to hate me for saying that.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve had happen in an Art lesson?
M: I’m really bad at remembering things like this.
Or what’s the biggest mix-up that’s ever happened?
M: [to Hunter] You entered your… was it true, that story? You never know with Mr Hunter, do you… [laughter]
H: Yeah, it’s true.
M: When he entered the Fourth Plinth competition and won it.
M: Apparently, but I wasn’t there, it happened before I started [at SHHS].
H: I wasn’t lying, we had to put examples up and I put my teacher examples in the same folder, and it went up and it was selected by Yinka Shonibare, so we had to write an apologetic email to the organisers of the Fourth Plinth, and they had to get Yinka back in to look at them again. But one of our students did get the runner-up prize, so…
B: But you were first.
B: I don’t think I can top that story.
H: Oh, I had another mix-up when I took a whole group of students who were in Year 10 to see an exhibition at the Tate Modern that was literally coming down on the day we visited.
B: It was a conceptual art exhibition. [laughter] Just thinking about what Art might be there.
On a side note, are there ever moments, such as in History of Art, where you’re thinking, ‘what am I talking about?’
S: Definitely. Well, students always ask me, ‘can we make stuff up in the exam?’
B: Yeah, but I think in History of Art there’s always areas that you just… I don’t know, you’re always quite honest, like, ‘I don’t know we’ll have a look’, but there’s something a bit pretentious sometimes about Art Historians and how they talk, and you always think, ‘you could just make it up’ but you don’t know.
S: The thing is, it’s a mathematical certainty that if knowledge is infinite, then there’s always going to be an infinite amount of stuff you don’t know, just because you can’t add or subtract from infinity. So, you just have to comfort yourself with that thought when you get asked questions you don’t know the answer to.
Where would you want to go next on an art trip?
S: Anywhere at the moment.
M: Maybe San Francisco?
H: Yeah, or this morning we were talking about Korea. That would be fun. Although LA was amazing, we could go back and do that. Or New York. New York is always good.
S: I’ve never gone to New York. I’d love to go to New York.
H: Japan is always good. I’d love to go to Naoshima, the island in the West [famous for its art galleries]. But last time we went to LA instead.
S: I just want our Venice trip to happen. We were meant to go to Venice in October half term.
H: And Berlin. That would be amazing.
M: Honestly, just anywhere.
S: Honestly, even just getting to Greenwich at the moment would be a win.
H: Somewhere where it’s hot in October is the best. That’s why LA was such a bargain because of the weather… because if you go to New York in October it’s freezing.
If the Art Department had a motto, what would it be?
B: What’s that?! It’s just sad!
M: I don’t know, like, ‘The Art Department rulez’
B: ‘rulez 2K21’
B: That’s just how uncool we are.
H: Where would you rather be? Like, as you walk past that’s what you see.
M: That’s just really cheesy.
B: Says the person that just said ‘Art rulez’ with a ‘z’?
M: You were being serious!
M: Or do you remember when Ms Wagner came and said it’s like a line in the… No. What’s that song? ‘You can never leave…’
H: Hotel California?
M: Hotel California. [laughter] Some line in that, she described it.
'You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’
M: Yeah, that.
B: [to M] I hope if there’s ever a game where we have to describe something by giving the lyrics I’m never paired with you.
B: Art rulez.
Mr Hunter, how did you get into motorbikes, and would any of the other teachers try it?
H: Just because I used to live in Athens, and, well, everyone had a scooter, so I had a little Honda step-through thing, and I used to go to work on it, and then they just got bigger and bigger, and then I came back here and… carried on. [pause] Yeah, it was nice in Greece, really. Sun’s always shining, no bad weather.
So would any of you go with
M: I would, yeah. I’d do it.
S: I’d rather drive it myself.
M: I don’t know if I’d be bothered trying it.
S: I would in the countryside, but I wouldn’t get on it in London or on the motorway. But in the countryside.
M: I’d like to be on the back of the bike, not in a sidecar.
B: I don’t think I’m cool enough. I’m also slightly scared of motorbikes. My mum rode one in the days.
M: [to Hunter] Would we go together?
Who would survive the zombie apocalypse?
M: You don’t know until you’re faced with it.
H: [to M] You did a zombie apocalypse thing.
M: Oh yeah, I did actually. For the movie ‘28 days later’, you know, they did one of those immersive experiences, and you had to dress up in scrubs. And they had like COVID testing tents and stuff, this was before COVID, to set the scene and you’d go run around this warehouse away from actors pretending to be zombies. [laughter] And they had snack stations on the way and stuff, and you’d get crisps.
B: That’s just what you need in a zombie apocalypse.
M: It was quite scary, we were queuing up to go in, and they pretended to come at us, and we didn’t know they were going to start then, and they were all like ‘arrgghh’ and then one actor pretended to run behind cars and stuff, so you just kind of go along with it.
C: Yeah, I think Madame Tussauds, they had a bit where zombies came out, and you had to run through, because they would literally come really close to you, so that was quite… fun.
M: And then, yeah, you got to watch the film at the end. But yeah, I was a runner. I ran.
B: I think Dr Slade would be very pragmatic, like ‘I have a plan.’
S: Yeah… yeah, I guess so.
B: And I reckon Mr Hunter would be just very chill.
H: Just shoot ‘em all in the face.
C: Just run them over with your motorbike.
H: Run them over. Yeah. [laughter]
S: I think Ms Bluck is being optimistic with my… pragmatic plan. [laughter] I’m more in the running and hiding category.
B: Probably, I’d like to think that I’d be like, right, plan. But I’d probably run.
M: Me too.
Are there any messages you’d like to share with the school?
B: What, as in about art? Or generally?
From the Art Department.
B: Never paint your sketchbook pages white. [laughter] It’s been done already, and I’ve seen it done too many times. Rant over.
M: Maybe if you get a nice texture on the paper?
M: I’d need to see white pages first. That’s never happened.
C: Yeah, I’ve never either.
M: But Adam once did paint for life drawing. He painted white on paper, and then did drawing on top of it. It was really nice. It was a really nice life drawing session. And he also put it in the printer, which… I wouldn’t advise that you do it now, but that was cool.
B: I’m all about that, but when you paint the page white, and then you just stick photos on top of it…
M: Yeah, that’s pointless.
H: Gets you through the lesson.
B: True, and then I’ll have steam coming out of my ears. [laughter] I mean… just don’t paint pages.
Ok, so what are your pet hates?
H: If you cut your drawing out, and then stick it in your sketchbook.
B: Oh, and then do a pattern round it. No.
H: Or if you write your title, in the big writing, and then do the little writing in the middle.
[nervous laughter from the interviewers, who have been known to do all of the above and more…]
H: That’s a rite of passage, isn’t it?
B: That’s calligraphy trending, yeah.
M: I’ve got so many. Drawing faces, hearts, stars…
M: …copying from photographs, horses are quite bad too. And also saying that we’re not academic. That makes me annoyed.
B: Yeah, all of those things. Also bubble writing and then coloured in with felt-tip pen. That’s annoying.
B: And if you’re going to use a Pritt Stick, know where you’ve put the lid.
C: Borders. Cutting out something and then sticking it on coloured paper and then sticking it into your sketchbook. It’s just annoying. It’s not sophisticated, do not do it.
B: I think sometimes photography on black paper, it does make it pop.
C: No… I’ve got something against the borders.
M: You need to come and see my Year 7 sketchbooks. All the borders, oh… it’s just joyful.
C: Especially when things aren’t cut straight. That, that gets to me. Please, just use the guillotine.