This year, the High School art department has been collaborating with the Middle/High School library to purchase new books to expand and improve the art section in the library. Clearly students have access to recommended sites for art research on the internet but the value and pleasure of books both as visual and physical objects in them-selves and as rich and often irreplaceable sources of information and inspiration cannot be overestimated.
In selecting the new titles for the library we have tried to be eclectic, reflecting a diverse student community with a wide variety of cultural viewpoints. In addition we have tried to bring some new and challenging critical understanding to both traditional disciplines in areas like drawing, painting and architecture as well as new insights into emerging types and styles of art and design in areas like digital media that reflect diverse geographical perspectives.
Three books by Sarah Simblet, ‘The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-First Century’, 10 Apr 2014 by Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet, ‘A Sketch Book for the Artist’, 29 Jun 2009, and ‘Botany for the Artist: An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants’, 1 Feb 2010 all reinforce the importance of direct observation in developing drawing skills. I was lucky enough to see some of the actual drawings in preparation for ‘The New Sylva’ when I worked with Sarah Simblet during a summer anatomy workshop at the Ruskin School in Oxford last year.
‘Art as History: Calligraphy and Painting as One’, 14 Dec 2014 by Wen C. Fong is an exploration of the traditional Chinese relationship between text and image by one of the world’s leading historians of Chinese painting and calligraphy. ‘Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained’, 1 Oct 2012 by Susie Hodge, challenges some of the popular myths and stereotypes about Modernism whilst ‘Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art’, 22 Jul 2014, is self-explanatory.
These and many more titles along with the monthly magazine ‘Modern Painters’ mean that students can explore multiple threads of sophisticated discourse that can help them broaden and deepen their understanding in science, math, history, languages and many other areas of the curriculum including the visual arts. “Only connect” as E.M. Foster used to say.
Rather than me extoll the virtues of these wonderful new titles why not come to the library to find out for yourself and engage with these exciting and intriguing discourses both in school and in the overlapping wider worlds beyond.
By Alan Mitchell – High School Art Department