UPDATE: Tuesday 17th March 2020

A word from our Principal:

Dear All,

I hope you are keeping well and safe in these uncertain times.

Our key priority is to protect the health of our community and so, following the guidance from the Prime Minister last night, we have decided that this this week’s evening, weekend and day classes are now cancelled.  We will review arrangements for the reopening of our public courses prior to the start of our new term and inform you on the website and by email when we are clear about this information.

Rob Pepper

Coronavirus update:

Art Academy London continues to monitor and respond to information from Public Health England.

The risk to the UK has been raised to high.

In line with advice from Public Health England the Academy is advising that you stay at home for 7 days if you have either:

  • A high temperature
  • A new continuous cough

This will help to protect others in your community while you are infectious.
Do not go a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
You do not need to contact NHS 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.

See the latest information and advice for the public on the outbreak of coronavirus from the Department of Health and Social Care. This covers the current situation in the UK and abroad, and provides specific advice for travellers returning to the UK from China, Hong Kong, Macao, Cambodia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.

Whether you are a student at the Academy, or due to attend a short course, and this applies to you, you must make yourself known to the Academy before attending.

Keep yourself up to date with the latest information here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

Video: How to wash your hands properly

Thanks for your cooperation.

Art Academy London has kindly been gifted four London Marathon tickets by the Mayor of Southwark, Sandra Rhule, as a part of the mayor’s chosen charities.

The Academy’s four runners are Harriet Wheeler, Jim Knight, Tom Morgan Evans and Emma Tess Håfström.

The London Marathon is one of the largest fundraising events in the world. Our team is aiming to raise £6,000 for the Academy. The money raised will enable us to;

  •     Offer bursaries for our academic courses, enabling artistic excellence to be achieved by students from all walks of life
  •     Provide local schoolchildren with free places on our Young Artists courses
  •     Provide free tuition to local charities working with disabled artists
  •     Provide low-cost studio space for artists in zone 1
  •     Maintain and update our facilities to enable broader accessibility and to offer our students a high-quality experience.

Whether you have benefited from our facilities in the past or want to help us grow in the future; please assist us to reach our goal by donating to our Givey Page.

The 2020 London Marathon will be on 26h April 2020.

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The Art Academy had another very successful year in the RP show at the Mall Galleries which opened this week.

2nd Year Student Saskia Gall has had a painting accepted into the show and student Kinga Markus had a self-portrait accepted into the SELF category. Ex Student Melodie Cook also had a drawing selected.

There was a host of The Art Academy Tutors also in the show including our Head of Painting Robin-Lee Hall and our Head of Drawing Brendan Kelly.
Other Tutors on show included Andrew James, Tim Benson, Melissa Scott-MillerAnastasia Pollard and Resident Artist James Lloyd.

 

 

Artist Hazel Reeves talks to The Art Academy ahead of her Portrait Sculpture Masterclass that starts in less than one month’s time.

Question: I guess as good as place as any to start would be to ask what you have been working on recently?

Hazel Reeves: In January I had the extraordinary privilege of sculpting at Dorich House Museum, the studio home of the acclaimed sculptor Dora Gordine. Once again I worked with Mercy Kagia, the talented art reportagist. We spent an inspiring week in the ‘Plaster Room’ with its red-tiled floor, bank of North-facing windows, overlooked by Gordine’s plaster portraits. One of the three Mercy portraits is now at the foundry, a bronze casting being an award from the Society of Portrait Sculptors in 2012.  In homage to Gordine I have just cast a plaster of Mercy. I spend hours working on the plaster once out of the mould. I love bronze, yet I love the tranquility that plaster brings to a portrait. ­­

Q: What do you see as the strengths of three-dimensional portraiture as an art form? And do you see a difference in working in this genre today as opposed to the era of someone like Dora Gordine, when it could be argued that things were culturally more ‘conservative’, at least on the surface?

HR: You only have to watch people interact with sculpted portraits and figures in a gallery, a park or garden. They talk to them, touch them, and ask themselves questions, “who are they, where are they from, what are they thinking?”. For me there is something quite visceral about such sculpture. Its immediacy provokes emotional responses. When my sisters independently saw the finished clay portrait of our mother, they both cried. The relationship that builds up between the sculptor and sitter is somehow invested in the clay modelling process. This reveals more than a likeness, it leads to sculptures with integrity and emotional currency.

It was a revelation to see the black and white photos of Dora Gordine’s portrait sittings, and to sculpt in her studio. It brought home how remarkably similar it is to be a portrait sculptor today. The need for live sittings, good lighting and a washable floor are the same. The tools, equipment and materials are the same. The bronze casting process at the foundry is the same. One difference is that it’s perhaps easier for women to become sculptors these days, although women remain under-represented.

Q: I suppose it is also telling that Dora Gordine came from a background in which sculptural portraits were reserved as a tool of recognition to impose competing powers and ideologies on people. Do you think an emotional response has become the most significant factor in how we now relate to portrait sculpture and how strongly does it dictate your own work?

HR: It is fascinating to reflect on who, over time, is considered worthy of being captured in bronze and placed in public. Yes, public commissioned bronze portraiture is still primarily reserved for people of power and influence – whether it be political, economic, social or cultural. Yet that is only one aspect of portraiture. Today, as in Dora Gordine’s time, there are sculptors who are drawn towards portraiture due to their love of people and faces. I count Dora Gordine and myself among these. I find any head fascinating. I find any person fascinating. Yes, it is a privilege to be commissioned to sculpt a public figure. But I get equal pleasure from sculpting those who would normally never be sculpted let alone cast in bronze and placed in public.

In my portrait work, the relationship that I build up with the sitter breathes life into the sculpture. So, yes, I make an emotional investment in the sculpting process. And I find it highly rewarding when viewers relate emotionally to one of my sculptures. As to whether this is the most significant factor in people’s reaction to portraiture more generally today, I could not say. It was, however, fascinating to observe how people responded to the full figure portrait sculpture of Margaret Thatcher in the House of Commons, on a visit there last week.

Q: I have seen the Margaret Thatcher statue and that is a great example of a divisive and problematic piece of imagery! As you say there is also the other side of portrait sculpture which is sculpting someone who isn’t a public figure as such. What do you see as the most valuable piece of advice you could give to someone who makes portrait sculpture, and would it be different depending on whether the sitter was a public figure or not?

HR: Tough question. For those thinking of starting to sculpt portraits, or already sculpting portraits, make sure you love people and faces. If not, stay away from portraiture, it will show through. For those that pass this litmus test, my advice would be to get to know your sitter and let them get to know you – as you sculpt, as you take breaks. This is back to the idea of relationship-building as the core of a successful portrait. With public figures, of course, this may prove more difficult. They may only be available for short or a limited number of sittings.

Beyond this, my advice would be to stand back. Force yourself to keep standing back from the portrait and the sitter, to initially keep an eye on the bigger shapes and structure. The wonderful proximity of being one-on-one with your sitter can get you over-excited, side-tracked into the detail of features before structural issues have been truly resolved. This only causes problems for later.

Oh, the final piece of advice is to remember to enjoy yourself. Yes, you are under pressure. But the process of sculpting a portrait and getting to know your sitter is a real pleasure and a real privilege. There should be room for smiles and laughter in the studio.

Q: And plans for the future?

HR: In terms of what is exciting now….to gain my interest, the themes of larger commissions need to touch me in some way. My previous academic work on peace and conflict meant that my commission to sculpt Sadako Sasaki for the Hedd Wenn peace garden in Wales was a real joy. Her life was cut short by the Hiroshima bombing. The garden and bronze sculpture were blessed in a touching ceremony on the World Day of Peace, 21st September 2012. My connection with this project continues – in May, we are very privileged that Maki Saji, a young Japanese Buddhist Nun, will be coming to visit the garden. Her life is spent travelling the world, performing Kamishibai (paper theatre) to promote peace by telling the story of Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes. Maki Saji will be talking to local primary school children. An educational website is also planned.

In terms of future plans….I am interested in the politics of representation. I am seeking to understand how society defines beauty or decides whose face is worthy of capturing in bronze. And to seek to challenge this by sculpting those who would never normally be sculpted let alone have their sculptures cast in bronze and placed in public. Their exclusion may be a result of their race, gender, age, class or disability. This has culminated me working on a proposal to bring portrait sculpture to new people and places, in some sense, democratising portraiture. A ‘performative’ way of working (ie sculpting in public) will be combined with an education programme, so more people can discover the joy of clay and portraiture.

Hazel Reeves is a Sculptor working out of Brighton, UK. Website / http://www.hazelreeves.com/