Aspirational beauty: painting class …the importance of personal narrative in painting

Taylor, Sarah (2017) Aspirational beauty: painting class …the importance of personal narrative in painting. In: Teaching Painting: How Can Painting be Taught in Art Schools? Black Dog publishing, London. ISBN 9781911164104

Abstract

“Painting is an attempt to come to terms with life. There are as many solutions as there are human beings.” George Tooker (1920-2011), contemporary American painter. Informed by my identity as a female working class painter and educator, the paper will introduce the concept of Aspirational Beauty, to raise awareness of and celebrate the endeavour of working class painting, often excluded from academic writing. I will also advocate for an egalitarian approach to recruiting for and teaching painting in higher education. Art historian John Golding referred to painting as the “most aristocratic of art forms”. Artist Grayson Perry has cautioned that art schools are turning into posh white ghettos. So how can an education in painting practice be accessible to and have contemporary relevance for all interested students? I will argue that one way is through Life Writing. In my research I use Life Writing as a method to explore and articulate my class background and to inform my painting. Combining perspectives from history, sociology and English literature, Life Writing supports interpretation of the consequences of class as felt and lived beyond the personal, bringing the realisation that what we refer to as autobiographical is largely historically and culturally determined. Significantly, the introduction of life writing within the art academy indicates that institutions are listening to and acknowledging the personal voice. I will present insights into my role as Lecturer teaching studio painting practice to argue that a medium specific course is a timely means for enabling the material, imaginative and cognitive processes involved in painting by facilitating subjective discovery and bringing about both personal clarity and material beauty.

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