WSA Fine Art students build a Biennale in the Tate Modern

Second Year Fine Art BA Student Jessica Mann shares her experience of building a Biennale at Tate Modern. Image © Dave Clarke

It all started with a film about an international exhibition of contemporary art.  The first ever Biennale in India was shaped by world-renowned artists and installed by volunteers from the Kochi community in 2012.

Having watched the film, WSA BA Fine Art  students were given the challenge of re-enacting elements of this exhibition and re-creating it in the country’s flagship contemporary art gallery, the Tate Modern in London.

Seven months ago we researched, brainstormed, experimented with sketches and maquettes and began to construct the artwork that we would take to the Tate in May.  The sculpture studio had already shown their card – they were re-building a boat. In the painting studio we decided to reflect the watery theme and sourced a cast-off vintage sail from a sail-maker in Southampton.

Divided into segments, over thirty student painters then expressed their own creative interpretation of identity in paint on the 2m x 1m strips of the sail.  Images included dream-like sequences, self-portraits, abstract shapes, poster text, giant flowers, photo transfers, expressive action paintings and precise pixelated diagrams.  Every one different but all united by the surface that we’d painted on.

We first exhibited these paintings at the WSA Fine Art ‘Event’ before Christmas.  Clipped to a tent frame, the former sails created a colourful, meditative space, which could be walked through – a gallery of images that inspired, created a mood and prompted reflection.

In preparing to take our artwork to the Tate for the May installation, the painting studio students have considered many different ways of curating and hanging our sail paintings in tent form.  The wooden constructions we decided upon have only just been completed and loaded onto the Tate-bound van. We’ll be running workshops for the public to experiment with painting their own tent, in miniature and on paper.  And of course, we’ll be making our own film to document this experience of building our own Biennale.

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