Pendulum – Personal Narratives in Education – from Polynesia to Scarborough


tracing circles

fragile finger’s fulcrum –

winter debris


Two recent sessions for the MaFaEd have focused on how personal narratives are constructed.  The first was a response to a workshop led by Christine Egan Fowler developed from work with her students at RoyalGrammarSchool Newcastle and other artist collaborators.  The second was a trip with fellow Northumbria University Students to take part in the Scarborough Winter School.  

Christine’s  workshop asked participants to construct personal maps from scrap materials in the style of the stick charts used by the Polynesian navigators of the Marshall Islands to help construct narratives about their geographies.


I decided to make a three dimensional piece that suggested movement, a map in flux, and travel in more than two dimensions, including time, feeling that my personal geography is a changing thing.


When asked to explain this to Christine and the cohort, I constructed a further narrative about my personal journey to find and construct a new identity from the mess or debris of previous lives and careers.  The stone at the top represented an anchor point, a weight, that held the pendulum, this could be seen as the weight of my conscious self.  Later I wrote the short Haiku style response at the top of the post.

Scarborough Winter School

I attended Scarborough Winter School as a delegate from Northumbria University. This was presented on different levels as firstly,  a response to the history of Scarborough as a centre of radical transformation of art education through the Basic Design workshops for teachers  initially provided by Victor Passmore, Tom Hudson and Harty Thubron in the 1950’s. Secondly it is a direct response to the challenges laid down for art education articulated in the art party conference of 2013 inspired by visual artist Bob and Roberts Smith.


Paper collage by a fellow student

I attended a workshop by Cane Cunnigham called composition that looked at the teaching of the formal elements and the language used to describe them.

The task was to design a abstract piece with two pieces of paper, black and white.  Using only 3 shapes – circle triangle and square.


3D composition showing formal elements

I made a 3D composition. This was critiqued using a formal language word list. We were taught to use this vocabulary to describe the work and at all times remove of dismiss the narrative element. In fact, until prompted to use the language sheet, Most students wanted to talk about the 3D nature of the piece, the relative creativity of the different  ideas.

conposition by fellow student

It made me ask the question – what do we teach? asked in the day conference’s first session. It raised questions about the use of private language, or elite language – is this a right of every student to be able to use this language? Or is it out of date and applicable to a certain sort of abstract formalism only? The degree students responded very warmly to the workshop. Cunningham maintained that this language was inherently universal and expandable to all areas of contemporary practice.

2nd formal sculptures in paper


teaching the language of art


How do those words channel thinking about artwork, positively or negatively?


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