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Beyond the horizon: future directions for the teaching of visual arts practice

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Just like the Emperor's new clothes, much recent visual art practice, according to Peter Campbell (2005: 24):

became famous without necessarily being seen. People felt they knew the tent, the bed, the shark, the fly-infested cow's head, whether they made it to the gallery or not. The concept was more telling than the reality. When you saw the pieces in an exhibition (and very large numbers of us did) they turned out to be more banal than you expected.
This article proposes an art school pedagogy which addresses Peter Campbell's critical observation by advocating that the degree of balance between conceptual intrigue and perceptual intrigue in contemporary visual art be considered as a main criterion of quality assessment. It is suggested that the perceived imbalance between the two, alluded to by Campbell, might be remedied by addressing the long-standing aversion to theory demonstrated by many art school lecturers; an aversion often justified by citing Barnett Newman's famous quip denigrating the relevance of visual aesthetics theory to artists. The article effectively debunks Newman's false logic.

It is argued that students' practice would be empowered by a pedagogy which integrates, rather than denigrates, the theoretical bases of visual art practice especially those of visual perception and visual communication within the curriculum, and which provides the means to understanding the socio-political contexts in which contemporary visual art is produced, positioned in the public domain and evaluated: a twenty-first century version of the Artworld first identified by Arthur C. Danto in 1964. The article ends with five theoretical premises upon which a curriculum for the art school of the future might be constructed.

Keywords: art pedagogy; artworld; conceptual intrigue; perceptual intrigue

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jvap.6.1.73_1

Affiliations: Dynevor Centre for Arts, Design and Media, Swansea Institute, University of Wales.

Publication date: May 10, 2007

More about this publication?
  • The domain of visual art hosts a multitude of artistic forms and practices. The Journal of Visual Art Practice supports research across the entire range of this varied field. The journal engages with the progressive nature of the subject, reflecting upon the changing terrain of art in recent years.
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