Grand Curtain Call for the 1st YCYW Joint School Art Exhibition
On 24 June, YCYW Art Exhibition “Evolution and Transformation” came to a spectacular finale at Marie's Painting Gallery. This first joint art expo by YCIS Shanghai (Pudong Campus), YCIS Shanghai (Puxi Campus), YWIES Shanghai Lingang, YWIES Shanghai Gubei, YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang, YWIEK Shanghai Biyun and YWITDC Shanghai, has attracted over 3,000 visitors in seven days.
"This is one of the best children's art exhibitions I have ever seen! The scale, format, pacing, age span and variety of the works have made this fair indelible in every way. Your philosophy in enquiry based teaching is on full display. Children are not dictated by teachers. Rather they are driven by instincts. I am truly amazed,” exclaimed Professor Zhou Changjiang, the former dean of the School of Art at East China Normal University and a renowned oil painter, after a serious review of over 1,300 pieces of work showcased.
The exhibition is unique in the eye of the beholder. Through writing, footages and images, we have tried to encapsulate the moments that were lit and warmed by artistic creativity.
Under the themes of Nature, Culture, Inspiration and Passion, children from early childhood to secondary school expressed their self-perception and universal understanding in nearly 20 forms of art including sketches, watercolour paintings, oil paintings, acrylic paintings, tempera paintings, collages, quilling paper, composite prints, backdrop paintings, comics, graffiti, ceramics, sculptures, installations, fashion design, industrial product design and digital photography.
One art piece called ‘Game of Wheels’ belongs to YWIEK Shanghai Biyun. It is an extension of ‘Move It’, a memento for the school’s anniversary in 2020. This art venture started with these questions: Can we paint with toys? Can we use real wheels to paint? Can we paint while riding on a tricycle?
The children first dipped their toys in paint of all colours to make wheel prints on paper. Later, real-sized wheels made their way into the art room for the children to play and paint with. The children ended up making creations while riding on a tricycle. The resulting painted surface was then cut into small rectangles to be used as raw material for creating bricks. When glued together on a line-up, the bricks resembled a solid wall.
This project originated from automobiles, so Artist-in-Residence Elena naturally thought of inviting children to design their own vehicles. The children worked collaboratively to make collages of cars, trains, helicopters, bicycles, trucks, etc. using a variety of unconventional materials. They continued to cut out the beautiful works and paste them on the backdrop of ‘bricks’, thus completing a complete cycle ― an adventure triggered by wheels, that finally evolved into beautiful paintings related to wheels.
A project titled “Exploration of the Universe” was displayed under the theme of Nature. It was a sophisticated creation by over 20 little artists from YWITDC Shanghai who were only 12–36 months old. The children painted a mysterious blue universe on stretched canvas using blue, purple and black poster paints. The children had plenty of fun painting with a variety of tools such as sponges, rollers, brushes and even their hands.
‘Wishing Dragon’ was located in the centre of the Culture section as perhaps the most eye-catching piece of work. To celebrate Chinese New Year, students from K2 to Grade 4 of YCIS Shanghai (Pudong Campus) embarked on a creative journey with Artists-in-Residence. They inspired each other and expressed their blessings for the New Year in words and colours. During the practical process, they gained a deepened understanding of traditional Chinese culture.
The works in the Passion theme focused on exuding the children's imaginative exploration. The installation named ‘Pyramid of Bells’ was constructed with beverage bottles. All the children in YWIEK Shanghai Biyun participated in the process of collecting the bottles, cutting, painting them with brilliant colours inside and out. They also inserted the glittering bamboo sticks and metal bells themselves. This project was an excellent display of Yew Wah's art and educational philosophy. Learning and empowered through play, children felt the beauty and joy in art creation.
While kindergarten and primary school children communicated with naivety and innocence, secondary section students conveyed more complex and intricate thoughts.
Isaac Zhang, Carina Wang and Cindy Fu are all from Year 13 of YWIES Shanghai Lingang. In his monochromatic painting series themed ‘Sadness’, Isaac used the human body and shells as the spoke to probe the relationship between death and emotion. The human body symbolises different stages of death, while the movements of the body and shells represent different emotions. Isaac believed that the production and secretion of outer shell likened to the development of emotions.
Carina chose the theme of ‘Appearance’. The three charcoal portraits on display were all of the same girl's face, with a birthmark drawn with red eye shadow, each with a different expression. Carina hoped to use her paint brush to show the girl's continuous struggle with imperfect appearance in daily life.
Cindy unraveled the theme of ‘Human Expression’ through textiles, blue calicos and paintings. This was her attempt to depict the pressure and struggles faced by human beings.
Dialogues with Artists-in-Residence
This exhibition is jointly curated by Artists-in-Residence and art teachers on each campus. YCYW takes pride in the unique Artists-in-Residence Programme. Since its inception in Hong Kong in 2005, the programme has been extended to all Yew Chung and Yew Wah schools in the mainland. At present, we have a total of nine Artists-in-Residence, covering the four dimensions of visual art, music, dance, and drama.
The four Artists-in-Residence Elena Hasnas, Haruka Ostley, Gabe Ostley and Mark Montgomery from YWIEK, YCIS Shanghai (Pudong Campus), YWIES Shanghai Lingang and YCIS Shanghai (Puxi Campus) respectively, attended the exhibition and shared their experience in art education.
Gabe mentioned that the relationship between art teachers and students is actually mutual achievement. The teacher's passion in teaching and the self-discipline in artistic creation have a long-term positive impact on the students. In turn, the creativity and imagination of the students reciprocate the teacher with a steady stream of inspiration.
Haruka also resonated, “I always try to use different materials to inspire children to create as I already have some ideas about what these materials can do. In actuality, the children often surprise me with fresher ideas and suggestions, evolving the materials completely. So I realise that I shouldn’t be controlling my ideas, (but) rather let them flow and interplay naturally. The best thing to do is to respond to what the kids want to create."
Students completed the dinosaur model in ‘Under the Sea’ as directed by Haruka. In the beginning, the children could not figure out the theme of the work, but after some fiddling with pictures, exploring with lines and colours, the dinosaur sculpture took its shape.
Elena likes to ‘play’ freely with the children in art class. She believes "play is feeling, exploration, and creation". She is convinced that the ‘process’ presides over all techniques and even the final product. If you only look at the results, you have only learned imitation. The real creation is self-discovery.
This year is Mark's 14th year in China. In his view, everyone is a storyteller. "We need to share our stories and attitudes towards life. With guidance and encouragement, everyone can create art and become an artist."