Do you remember your first experience in an art class? Getting sticky with glue, eating the Play-Doh, or smearing colours on bits of paper/the walls/each other? My own was making a large wobbly snake from bits of velvet stuffed with old tights and offcuts. The result was ‘Sir Hissalot’, who survives today as a very handy draught excluder.
Who knows if these early practical educational moments would shape what was to follow, but what matters most is that this opportunity existed at all. Most readers of Tate Etc. would agree that we are preaching to the converted by reiterating the value of art to us all, but what about the sizeable number of people who don’t share your passion for our rich visual culture? How to convince them?
Statistics can sometimes help. A recent survey of 200 civil engineering graduates from the University of Bath found that those who studied art and design offered a ‘1.74 per cent advantage’ to the class average. It is a small but important number. However, better than percentages are the real-life stories from those whose lives have been influeced by these earlier artistic experiences. Take the example of former MP Nick Raynsford, who tells us that the learning he received from his school art teacher Dennis Hawkins and then from his art college principal Fred Brill had a ‘profound impact’, and has taught him to ‘respond creatively’ throughout his life.
There are many people in this issue who are beneficiaries of artists and teachers who encouraged and supported them. Where would the likes of Bernard Leach, Gluck, Wolfgang Tillmans, or Jessica Warboys have been without them? And we would have a very different David Hockney were it not for Frank Johnson, the generously spirited teacher at Bradford Regional College of Art who recognised the potential in his teenage student. There would have been no Duncan Grant were it not for his enlightened aunt who persuaded his parents that he enrol at Westminster School of Art, there to be further encouraged by the French painter Simon Bussy. What direction might Richard Wentworth’s life have taken were it not for the potter Gordon Baldwin, who, as Wentworth evocatively writes, was ‘the miracle man in the art room who was quietly, even rigorously, saving me from the confusions of being an early 1960s adolescent’?
The message is clear – art really does change people, no matter what they may end up doing in life. Please do tell that to all your non-art-loving friends.
Simon Grant, editor
From her beginnings as an artist living in Hull in the late 1960s, Cosey Fanni Tutti has challenged the boundaries of contemporary art and electronic music. She has worked as a pornographic model and striptease artiste, and alongside Genesis P-Orridge was part of the art and music collective COUM Transmissions, whose performances consistently shook social convention, and the group Throbbing Gristle. In 1975 COUM represented Britain at the 9th Biennale de Paris, and in 1976 their Prostitution show at the ICA prompted the Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn to declare them the ‘Wreckers of Civilisation’. Tate Etc. spoke to her on the eve of her COUM Transmissions exhibition in Hull and the publication of her memoir Art, Sex, Music.
Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen is finally reunited with the girl who appears in her captivating photograph Girl on a Spacehopper (Byker) taken in 1971
David Hockney (b.1937) remains one of the most celebrated and popular British artists of the 20th century. For more than 60 years he has been breaking boundaries in the media he has used, including painting, drawing, print, photography and video. Central to this approach has been the artist’s fascination for people and places as well as his ongoing enchantment with the art of the past
Louis Henderson on how the work of his great uncle, Nigel Henderson (1917–1985), still haunts the present
Richard Wentworth relives teenage memories from the early 1960s when he visited an extraordinary exhibition by Robert Rauschenberg in London’s East End… before recounting his experience of visiting the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition currently at Tate Modern
The Los Angeles-based artist Mark Bradford, who represents his country at the 2017 Venice Biennale and is known as much for his social activism as his painting, cites Robert Rauschenberg as an important influence
Tate Etc. online exclusive
Sam Riviere remembers Eduardo Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Road station, a gateway to both the city and the ‘chaotic iconography’ of his extraordinary collages and screenprints
Artworks on view at this year’s TEFAF art fair in Maastricht showed how great artists from across the centuries have excelled at depicting the ever-shifting nature of the human form, and continue to do so, as Simon Grant writes