The first web site project commissioned by the Tate Gallery. The brief was to work with pupils from two secondary schools in London Borough of Tower Hamlets to do creative work that took inspiration from the Tate’s John Singer Sargent exhibition.
In order to inspire young people who might ordinarily have found the Sargent paintings uninteresting, I took pupils on an exhibition tour, encouraging them to pick one painting only to which they felt they could relate. If it was a portrait, their choice should be because they either felt the person depicted was someone they would like to be or reminded them of someone they liked. If it was a landscape they should choose a painting that reminded them of somewhere they had been or would like to go. The strategy of bringing the art into their world seemed to work and pupils developed strong attachments to their choice.
Their next task was to re-construct the painting with reference to their own life using digital imaging. The school’s art department had been promised computers that failed to arrive during the whole course of the project. Using a laptop and supported by designer Henry Iles (who has played a key role in all subsequent work of this kind), it was possible to work closely with the young people to re-make these images around their own identities and hopes for the future. With the support of poet Sue Hubbard each also wrote their own catalogue-like review commenting on the meaning, references and formal attributes of their work and influences from their personal experience.