My name is Tim Bland and I work for Daisi, the arts education organisation for Devon & Torbay. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum approached Daisi to run Tablets of Art, a workshop for young, emerging digital artists to come together to reflect on the ARTIST ROOMS Gilbert & George exhibition and create a digital work inspired by our responses. My aims for the session were to interpret the work of Gilbert & George, including looking at the themes behind the work and the place of the work in the museum. I was keen not to shy away from the controversial themes of the work and aimed to use the collective response of the participants to guide the work that they create. Using the thoughts of the group as a starting point, participants would then choose a theme to explore and create a digital work of art for RAMM’s Gilbert & George microsite. Each participant creates a singular tablet screen or phone-screen of work that when brought together with the other screens forms a greater piece, a concept partially inspired by Gilbert & George’s ‘Planed’.

I think it’s important for participants to be able to drive the direction of the workshop and my role is to run a workshop that allows them to follow their own creative response. To assist with the composition and creation of their work, RAMM will be providing access to the museum’s handling collections; something that I’m sure will inspire participants.

I love the idea of each member of the group producing one part of a unique work of art that forms a greater piece. I find it especially exciting that the work will then be shared online, opening up possibilities for re-assembly. I find it especially inspiring to be able to empower emerging artists to use commonplace items such as phones and tables within their practice and cannot wait for the journey this will take us on. 

Tablets of Art project at RAMM, Exeter
Tablets of Art project at RAMM, Exeter

We (that’s Kate, Helen, Helen, Veron and Alan) really enjoyed the Tablets of Art workshop at RAMM which coincided with hosting the ARTIST ROOMS Gilbert & George exhibition. The morning was led by Tim Bland and he literally stopped us in our tracks. Tim stressed how important it is to take time to look at a painting and not just dismiss it because it doesn’t immediately appeal to you – and he’s right.

We started off with a tour of the RAMM Gilbert & George exhibition, and although we’d all seen it before, we all learnt to look again at the works because we all had different views about them. In fact, we said we could have gone around it at least twice, adding new thoughts each time, building on previous conversations. We ‘saw’ things that we hadn’t clocked before now, like who is and who isn’t in a work, strange compositional arrangements, the way different poses convey different emotions. We noticed things like the tramp has been punched in the face and has blood on his nose and lip. We all agreed that the size and colour made a big impact!

With these thoughts in mind,  we started to work co-operatively to create a shared work in the spirit of Gilbert and George – thinking about contemporary issues/art for all. We came up with shared ideas about things that concern us – the environment, bees, pollution, terrorism and so on – and then one of us said, “can’t we have some happy stuff in there too?” So we turned it on its head and looked at positive things like the power of community action and work that is going to improve the environment.

We then explored RAMM’s handling collections to see what things we could photograph and then transform using various apps. We found bees and butterflies (environmental themes), old and new boots (community action), Roman mosaic pieces (durability of quality art from the environment) and added some selfies (to put people in the picture, a la Gilbert & George). We then got creative with the apps, using filters, effects and masking. The idea was to make one image each to illustrate one of the themes and then to physically place the tablets, pads, pods and phones we were using to create a Gilbert and George-esque joint image.

Tablets of Art project at RAMM, Exeter
Tablets of Art project at RAMM, Exeter

Here’s the completed collaborative art work entitled Tablets of Art 2014. There were only six of us and we didn’t all have tablets so the final result isn’t quite symmetrical but we were pleased with it for one morning’s work! The individual images will be uploaded to the RAMM webpage. When finished we discussed different apps we have used and brushed up on techniques for using others. We agreed that although apps etc are supposed to be about doing art quickly, in fact you need plenty of time to learn them properly and to create great art with them!