Sunday, 28 August 2016

What is Art?

Damien Hirst's 'Away from the flock'

According to the English dictionary, Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. But when we look past the dictionary definition of art we find that art really can be anything. Just take a look round the Tate Modern and you will realize this soon enough. Last year I went to the Tate Modern with my school as part of my Art GCSE course and as we walked around the gallery with our clip boards and pencils making rough sketches of the artworks we saw, I remember thinking 'is this really art?'. I was seeing so called 'art' such as a slit in a canvas (below) and messy paint splatters such as Jackson Pollock's artwork. I then remember thinking 'if this is art then anyone can be an artist'.
'Spatial Concept Waiting'
by Lucio Fontana
I could do exactly what Tracy Emin did and recreate my messy bed and call it art. That would make me an artist, just like Tracy Emin. I could get a massive canvas and start splatting paint all over it randomly and thoughtlessly and call it art. That would make me an artist, just like Jackson Pollock. I could cut a sheep in half like Damian Hurst did and... well you probably get the gist of it now. The fact that the artwork (above) was in the Tate Modern was quite shocking to me. Anyone can put a slit in a canvas and call it 'art'. So this brings me to the conclusion that art can be anything as long as it's an artist's state of expression or if it has a sort of profound meaning behind it. So I could ultimately empty a bag of rubbish onto the floor, arrange the rubbish items in a creative and meaningful way and call it art. Modern art really is strange.

Van Gogh's 'Starry Night'
In the 1700s and 1800s art nearly always used to consist of paintings with fine details like the post impressionist Van Goph's 'Starry Night'. Why is this painting so famous? Because it's got Van Gogh's unique and intricate detail and style. It probably doesn't have a pretentious meaning behind it, it's just pleasing to the eye. And this also relates to other famous paintings like Monet's 'Water Lilies' or Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. Back in the times of the 1700s and 1800s you really had to be a good painter to be a good artist. Art really has come a long way throughout the ages. It's very rare these days to see a cave drawing or an elaborate painting of a nude body. Today, art is a lot more abstract... you actually have to think about what you are seeing... especially if you are in the Tate Modern.

Francis Bacon's 'Three Studies for Figures at a Base of a Crucifixion'

I personally like the artwork from Francis bacon (above) due to the abstract, unrealistic images which portray the artist's impression of morbid images. The painting above was created in 1944 and at that time many people were shocked to see such a strange, blunt painting. I personally love art which makes the viewer shocked or taken aback, just like Francis Bacon or modern street artist Banksy's work. But this is what I think good art is, you may completely disagree with me. 

Image result for tate modern art mondrian
Mondrian's 'Composition No.III with Red, Yellow and Blue'

So this brings us back to the vital question 'what is art?'. This question has come up so often and many people have said various different answers. Many people will argue that art simply cannot be defined. I think it can be anything which expresses yourself (with an idea, view point or an emotion) through a product made with aesthetic or communicative purpose. With this said, anyone can be an artist and anyone can create art.

Friday, 19 August 2016

A Rant About Plane Journeys

Plane journeys. in my opinion, really aren't that amazing. Actually, I don't think there's anything amazing about them at all. What is there to like about being squashed like a sardine, into an uncomfortable seat in a tin can for long hours, experiencing so many irritating and exasperating things that could potentially drive you mad?

After getting on the plane, dragging your heavy hand luggage across the aisle you can finally take a seat and relax after a very exhausting few hours walking around an airport, having security checks and waiting in long queues. However, your time relaxing in your seat only lasts as long as the time to realize that you are going to be stuck in this seat for the next few unbelievably dull and protracting hours. And then you see who exactly you have the good fortune of sitting next to. It really could be anyone. An over protective mother with a screaming baby or some idiot who snores as loud as an air horn and has teeth like a burnt out fuse box. I think the most nightmarish person to be sat next to would be someone who looks and acts like Jabba the Hutt. 

Then come the fretting emergency demonstrations which suggest that there is actually a good chance the plane could crash. Let's face it, if the plane is going to crash a safety jacket and an oxygen mask isn't really going to save you. An emergency exit wouldn't either really because if you jumped out as the plane was heading to the ground to crash then chances are you would fall to your death unless a massive inflatable was waiting for you on the ground. It's at the point when your watching the safety demonstrations that you realize you probably shouldn't have watched 'Final Destination' or read about the Busby Babes crash... And then comes the take off where you suck vigorously at a sweet and then you are officially travelling in a gigantic metal bird. After takeoff you try and enjoy the journey, go on electronic devices, read, eat or sleep.

But there are many distractions, noises and irritating things going on around you in a plane. People coughing and sneezing, screaming babies, children kicking your chair and people snoring are the main ones. And then there is the plane itself which makes an awful lot of terrifying racket. It almost sounds like there is something wrong with the plane's engine... it's like a strange mechanical hiccuping sound. I find that the best way to pass the time on a plane is to watch a downloaded sitcom but you will probably find it hard to hear the sitcom due to the frequent noise of the plane and the people on it which includes the hostesses asking people if they want tea, coffee or a packet of mini cheddars. And this brings me to the food. In my opinion, the food on a plane usually looks like something which has been mushed up in a bucket. It's a mix between the classic old school dinners and the stodgy left over's from last nigh't meal. And even if the food tastes somewhat decent, you still have children who sneeze or make irritating noises and even run down the aisle. But behind the children are the parents and when parent's don't control their offspring this completely infuriates me. 

And finally, my worst hate of planes is turbulence. I've had a few bad experiences with plane turbulence. One flight I was on had such bad turbulence that people were screaming, holding each other's hands in hope that the plane would land safely and physically trying not to be sick. There was one moment when the lights dimmed down and everyone on the plane went silent, the only noise you could hear being the sound of the plane making little beeps and mechanical ticks.You hear about planes crashing or going missing every now and then on the news, and even though you know that travelling by plane is the safest form of travel, you still think about the possibility that something very unfortunate could happen to the plane you are on. But the chances are ever so small and thousands and thousands of planes safely come and go every day. But it's still such a sigh of relief when the plane lands and you get the feeling that you are quite frankly glad to be alive.

I recently went on a rather nice, interesting holiday and I must say that the flight there and back were the best couple of flights I've ever had. They were actually quite relaxing. There were still the few annoyances but nonetheless it was actually alright and there was only a small bit of turbulence. I still don't particularly like plane journeys. I don't really find any satisfaction from being on a plane. Ok, the idea of being able to travel in the air to another country miles away is truly remarkable but I hate having to be stuck, sat in a seat for hours (I'm a rather energetic person), experiencing turbulence and irritating calamities. After a plane journey, the holiday better be something special! What do you think about plane journeys? Please do leave a comment. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The truth about Grammar Schools

I have gone to a Grammar School for four years of my life. In my first year there I was  a gullible kid who didn't understand most things in life including the education system. Now, after finishing my fourth year there, I understand more things, can see how the education system works and I have realized the truth behind grammars (which is both partly good and bad) so I thought I would share with you the honest truth of what grammar schools are like because I have actually been to one and because Grammar Schools seem to be at the center of many debates such as 'should we bring back more Grammar schools?'.

In order to get into a grammar school you have to pass an 11+ non verbal and verbal test. When I sat these tests I thought they were the most important thing in my life. I thought getting into a grammar was the be all end all, the ultimate achievement. Everyone said grammar was the best school ever. And you can imagine the pressure I felt to get into grammar even though my parents would say rather supportingly 'you can only do your best, it doesn't matter if you don't get in'. Secretly I knew they really wanted me to get in and I knew they would be severely disappointed if I didn't. I was worried I wouldn't get in, especially when I realized I could have potentially missed out on ten marks at the end of the non verbal paper because I was too busy worrying about needing a wee but very luckily I managed to get in to grammar.

It's just as well I got in although at the time, many of my friends didn't get in. It was like Darwin's natural selection before my very eyes. The day we all found out if we had got in or not was actually quite tragic. At school, one girl was on her knees sobbing as if it was the end of the world. Her parents had wanted her to get in more than anything and most of her friends, including her bestest friend had got in. She felt stupid and that she had let everyone down, including herself. I felt sorry for her, having to deal with all that pressure to get in and then not getting in and dealing with all that at such a young age where you shouldn't really be worrying about things like that. She did her best, but was it good enough? No. Natural selection said goodbye to her, crossed her off the list and fed her to the angry crocodiles in the swamp. Natural selection sent her to the public school up the road when all her friends got to go to the grammar school, the amazing, impressive grammar school. That's life. You either rise up or get kicked down. Survival of the fittest at its finest. 

That's how harsh it is. I really do think its tough how 11 and 12 year olds have to go through the pressure and the expectations of getting into a grammar school. Some parents make their kids do countless hours of practice for the tests. Should a child really have to do all that work and have all that pressure to get in to a school? And what if they don't get in? What is the child going to feel like then? They will feel ashamed, stupid and like they are not good enough. A child shouldn't have to feel like this. And then the children who do get in suddenly feel this sense of 'I'm better than you'. One friend of mine started going round saying 'I go to a grammar school don't you know!'. Luckily I didn't feel the need to say this, especially when most of my friends didn't get in. What would saying that have made them feel like? Many people thought that getting into grammar meant you were ultra smart but thinking about it, it doesn't even really mean your smart! One of the smartest people I know who always got top grades in every subject didn't get in to grammar. Grammar tests aren't really true representations of smartness or mental ability. 

 In Year 8 we had a series of exams which many children found competitive and hard especially after the nice, easy work in Year 7 where most of us were top of the class. Suddenly many of us were experiencing thoughts such as 'i'm not good enough' because all of a sudden the competition had risen to dramatically high levels. We compared test scores with our friends and I even found myself getting scores which were at the bottom of the class, especially in Science which I was not very good at (and i'm still not very good at it). Everyone forgot that we were actually in the top percentage of the country and only thought about the classroom we were in rather than the country as a whole. After all, at that age you only really believe what you see. The work was a lot harder than in Year 7 and although I enjoyed the challenges that came with the new work, it was also sometimes a bit too difficult for me and the homework was a bit excessive. However many people found the homework alright if you got it done the night you got it. Thinking back, I actually realize that we had more exams in Year 8 than in Year 9 which was most probably to get us adjusted to our new school and to see what level we were really at. 

Here's a key point about Grammar Schools: They are mostly full of middle class white children. And my school backs up this point very nicely indeed. Why are there more middle class children in a Grammar? Perhaps because their parents were the ones who paid for tuition to get into grammar. Poorer families would not necessarily be able to afford the tuition to pass the eleven plus exam. It all makes perfect sense. It could also be because their parents went to grammar schools so are prompted to get into a grammar school themselves. I think there should be a lot more diversity (of classes and race) in grammar schools so the children who go to a grammar get to interact with all corners of society... and so the poorer classes can achieve potential.

Also Grammar Schools  primarily focus on the more academic subjects which makes sense really because after all as it is a Grammar school. But this obviously isn't particularly good for the more creative kids who struggle with subjects like Science and Maths. I was one of these kids and although my school really did it's best (but not enough) to help me in Science and Maths I just wasn't up to scratch with the high academic standards. The teachers would take the mick out of creative subjects like Art, Media or Graphics. I remember my Chemistry teacher once said something along the lines of 'I can't quite believe there's a GCSE for painting little pictures' (Art). Another of my teachers said that Media Studies was 'just watching films and a waste of time'. I don't think it's just watching films... We all have our opinions but I don't think it was fair of this rather idiotic teacher to say this to try and influence their students. Although my Grammar School does allow you to take up creative subjects instead of logical ones it is deeply biased and sways heavily to the more logical side with teachers disregarding the subjects that aren't scientific or maths based. 

Despite all this, the challenging atmosphere in a Grammar School did certainly make me feel powered up and willing to learn, especially in Year 8 (my enthusiasm for school was a downward slope after Year 8). Most grammar Schools also have pretty decent teachers who can actually teach (however they are all extremely left wing so they are obviously politically influencing their students, bombarding them with left wing views). Grammar Schools are also usually single sexed (which can be good and bad (but mostly bad actually)). And a key positive factor is that Grammar Schools allow students to reach their full potential (if you have potential).

Thanks for reading. Please do comment your thoughts about what I have written.