A Matter of Perspective: the cultural exchange of calligraphy and modern art
This day, grade 3 and 4 continued our unit exploring the relationship between avant-garde, mid-century Japanese calligraphy (in particular the work of Inoue Yuichi) and the abstract art in America that influenced it and was later influenced by it. This unit is designed to sharpen student's powers of reflection and critical analysis of the myriad variables that contribute to a painting (composition, scale, balance, negative and positive space, paint consistency, application technique, application tools etc.) and the effects adjusting each can have.
Earlier the week the class flexed their creative thinking muscles by interpreting the "essences" of many of Robert Motherwell's paintings by giving them new names or hypothesizing what their meanings might have been if they were kanji calligraphy. We then backtracked and looked into key concepts such as form, connection and perspective and how these aspects informed the students' interpretations of Motherwell's abstract work. Students came to understand that Motherwell was practicing a kind of "calligraphy in reverse." Rather than starting with a symbol that already has a meaning attached and determining how best to express its "essence" on the page, Motherwell searched for meanings that naturally emerged from the form of his improvisation and reflection.
On the day, students each had a turn to create large format abstract art like Motherwell's using a big homemade brush of mine. After each stroke, line, dot, or small "idea" was expressed on the paper, the students paused and consulted their peers: What did they see? How did they feel looking at the work after the new addition? What questions did they have? What was their perspective? What suggestions might they have for the next application of paint? The painter then synthesized this input and made their own decisions on how to proceed. I was very impressed by the students work and felt they did an incredible job. Their work is distinct, deeply-considered, powerful and exciting. I'm really looking forward to seeing where they take these skills in the future.
Russell - Elementary HR Teacher (USA)
Elementary HR teacher of CGK International School. From the US.
Lived in Australia and Singapore.