abstract art – grade 7 reflect on the beauty of non-representational art

Originally this unit began as an inquiry into light and shadow in fine art photography. Students explored the inquiry questions ‘What can we not include in our photo’s to create fine art abstract photography?’ with the overall debatable question being ‘Can a photo be aesthetically pleasing if it has no realistic elements?’. After the photos were taken and contact sheets were evaluated the best 3 shots were edited very simply through the photo editing tools inside preview. I love how user friendly and easy preview is for this task… it is also a great introduction into photo editing before launching into Photoshop.

Grade 7 quickly mastered the concept so we extended the unit by completing beautiful abstract 70cm x 100cm acrylic on canvas paintings.

These paintings were based on their photographs with the opportunity to copy directly or add or subtract areas continuing with the main premise of abstract art being non-representational. This was also a great chance for me to teach some skills-based blending, value and tone exercises. Reflecting on the last stage of the unit I realised there is a great opportunity to introduce abstract painters like Robert Motherwell, Georgia O’Keefe and some of my favourite contemporaries like Fiona Rae and  Elham Rokni. Exposing students to a range of abstract painters and having them plan artworks with the artists in mind and their photographs could lead into some exciting individual investigations, next year! For now, I am super happy with their reflections:

“Abstract art is an art, which shows a mysteries photo or image, it can be anything you think.”

“In my opinion abstract art is a kind of art that doesn’t show the main idea of the art work clearly. It gives some space to let people guess what is the artist telling us about. When the artist is drawing, he/she can draw any thing he/she wants… messy lines, points… and we can think it could be some thing like a ball of string, or bird’s nest but it could be anything”

Next time they visit an art gallery with their parents they can impress them with their concept and knowledge of abstract art.

Helping Grade 7 ESL students Analyse Artwork

We have an excellent ESL programme here at BISS, every teacher works incredibly hard to get complicated content and concepts across to our students. For me, the hardest part is the terminology required for analysing artwork. Google translate cannot translate grid and mixed media into an art context so I try a variety of ways to help students but today’s differentiation idea worked! Hoorah! I made this task sheet (KUSHNER group research page) for students to work on in pairs. I paired the students; an ESL student with either a native speaker or someone whose language ability is higher. Before they set to work I gathered the students around in a big group and together (with a lot of questioning, hand movements and drawing across Robert Kushner’s artwork with red markers) we ended up with the orange chart below. The student’s referred to this as they started their analysis. You can see from the examples below the students definitely have an understanding of the pictorial devices used in Kushner’s work. The next test of my differentiation will be seeing if they continue to use these key words and concepts in their annotated notes and reflections. I hope so! Watch this space… have you had successes in teaching artwork analysis to ESL students? I would love to have some more ideas.