Undertones – Art Exhibition 2021

GCSE and A Level Art Exhibition 2021

“Painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness and some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain, you end up boring people.” Edgar Degas

This year, pupils and staff were able to enjoy a scaled-down, but nonetheless inspiring exhibition in part of the Hub, but with visitors into School still restricted, a more comprehensive digital exhibition similar to last year was mounted and this was shared with parents, pupils, staff and alumnae. While the immediacy and impact of seeing the wonderful colours and textures in true reality can never be emulated, the digital exhibition was beautifully created and certainly reflected the depth of talent and imagination and all the hours of thought, planning and realisation achieved by our fantastic artists.

Every year our Upper Sixth artists title the show and, this year, the word ‘undertones’ was democratically selected for interesting reasons. In Art, undertones are usually thought of as being the first layers of a painting which form the foundation of composition but more importantly, they set out the important tonal values from which the rest of the painting will follow. The Upper Sixth felt that the word encapsulated all their projects in some way, and they thought that the word would prompt viewers to think more deeply about the roots, layers and meaning of their work.

Presenting… Undertones

Head of Art Mrs Ruth Fildes said: “The whole show is a tremendous achievement on the part of all our immensely talented artists, who have worked incredibly hard over what has been the most unusual and testing two-year period for them in their lives and, indeed, in their education. I can honestly say that every one of these students has risen to and overcome all the added challenges thrown up by the pandemic. They should be immensely proud of the personal growth that they have shown and the outstanding artworks that they have each so thoughtfully created.

The Upper Sixth have simply been a joy to teach. As a group, they have shown determination, commitment and creativity that knows no bounds. Their very individual and personal projects have been devised and driven by themselves and cover such a wide range of subjects, from the natural and built environments, to the human condition and mythology, and spanning disciplines such as animation and illustration to sculpture and installation and, of course, the wonderful staples of drawing and painting. They have inspired me greatly over the past two years I know they have such bright, creative futures ahead.”

Mrs Johnston added: “As well as developing technical ability and artistic expertise, the students also enhanced their knowledge and understanding of contemporary and historical artists. Exploring themes such as the Holocaust, the ways in which women present themselves in art, landscape, portraiture, trompe l’oeil and mythology, their work reflects their independence of mind and differing interests. This diversity has encouraged sophisticated artwork and well-developed written analysis in their Related Studies. How experiencing trauma impacts creativity and alters expression, how Monet represented the passage of time and how artists have used form, composition, and texture to explore the effects of nature, were just some of the questions students posed themselves. We are exceptionally proud of how motivated and hard-working the Upper Sixth have been throughout their final year at Withington, and there is no doubt their work will be highly influential to the next generation of artists coming through the School.”

Mrs Fildes continued: “And now to the tremendous Upper Fifth, what a mature and sophisticated GCSE show, displaying skill and ideas beyond their years. Each should be thrilled with their very thorough coursework portfolios, which have been created with such care. Their versatility in working from such different genres such as natural forms and portraiture is just brilliant and testament to their adaptability and level of technical prowess. They too have been a delight to work with over the past two years and am very much looking forward to continuing to help on their creative endeavours at A Level next year.

I would like to say a huge, thank you, to the simply outstanding Art Department staff whom I work alongside. Their absolute passion in all that they do is simply second to none and so crucial to all the successes you see within this exhibition. I do hope you enjoy all the work here and I encourage you just to take a few moments longer to really appreciate each and every work of art and the ‘undertones’ which have been vital in their creation.”