Starting over: teaching painting without students

Mary Anne Francis

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    As many commentators have observed, the UK government’s insistence that ‘maintained’ schools devote more time to English and Maths is having a negative impact on secondary Art and Design education. One of the consequences of this redistribution of priority is the prospect of a dearth of applicants to related degree courses.

    Taking the provision of a tertiary-level painting education as a case in point, and indeed, as one potentially particularly affected by an associated emphasis on degrees-for-employment, this paper poses the worst-case scenario as a kind of thought-experiment - one that enables a review of what it is to teach painting. It asks: what might painting-teaching be, in the absence of everything that students imply: expectations, the history of a programme, and the teaching of a medium?

    Recognising that this question has originated in a political economy that wants to see education as a function of capital, i.e. as a utility facilitating prescribed forms of GDP, this paper will frame its response in terms of cultural-materialist debates about art’s autonomy, or otherwise. In doing so, it will outline and discuss a spectrum of futures for the teaching of painting. At one end, it will address the idea of painting as an autonomous art-practice, identified via Greenberg with its self-criticality. And in considering this, the paper will ask what this means today. At the other end, it will re-view the utilitarian identification of art (painting) and industry, which underpinned the early, Victorian art-school, suggesting vocational applications for the contemporary practice of the medium; e.g., as a training for the building trade.

    In the manner of a thought-experiment, the possibilities that the paper entertains are of course, perhaps rhetorical, but equally, potential futures.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2018
    EventTeaching Painting: Painting the New - Royal Academy of Art, London
    Duration: 19 Jun 201820 Jun 2018


    ConferenceTeaching Painting: Painting the New


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