‘FROM CHOCOLATE BOXES TO TOILET ROLLS’ INTRODUCTION TO MODERN ART September 1984 – June 1987

Expect the unexpected was never as true as when I started my A’ level Art course.  The O level/CSE art course was all about cheesy chocolate box art, the equivalent of what Whitney Houston is to pop music.  However, when I started out on my A level, we were told to throw what we learnt at O level out the window.  This, along with social isolation, added to the challenges I faced at the time, but in hindsight helped make me the person who I am today.

To say my A level took a bit of time getting used to is an understatement; it was like moving from the outback of Australia to New York City.  A little taster of what the projects involved – painting adjectives such as ‘Brush’, ‘Carve’ etc. with objects like a toothbrush; then the next session painting on a toilet roll a remix of the sounds we were making the week before (recorded by one of the tutors), and then for our homework making an audio recording of the toilet roll painting.  Seriously heavy shit I tell you.

As part of the course, we had to undertake History of Art, to link in with the practical activities.  The first year was all about the Renaissance, Leonardo Di-Vinci and all that.  In the second year, we moved forward a few hundred years to Impressionism and other movements of that time.  One movement that inspired me and still does is Cubism.  Picasso is one famous Cubist, as well as having many other specialist isms to his name.  Anyway what floated my boat about this movement was looking at things in different ways.  I think all my life I had odd ways of thinking, often in my childhood and early adulthood this caused me great torment.  Certainly, I didn’t realise this would be a massive asset in my life.  Only through the healing of time do I now understand the significance.

I think this course summed up my struggles of the time, isolation and loneliness.  I used to spend many an evening working late in the college studio on various projects.  One such occasion was a very wet November day in 1986.  I finished at around 5.30ish and went to get my bike to go home.  It was a dark, foul night and there was my prized racer sticking out of one the industrial sized bins.  Fortunately, my tutor got it out of the bin, but this really enforced my desperate state of mind at the time.

Fast forward to the present day, I can really see the benefits of this course especially at work.  In my line of business, adult mental health administration, the need to think outside the box should be put on the job description.  There are many problems we are asked to solve where traditional methods just don’t cut it.  Personally I think all the managers in their ivory towers should go on my A’ level course, we might just have better run services!

COMING UP IN NEXT MONTH’S BLOG, a visit to London’s South Bank where I get all erect!

Jarmin Apple

September 2019

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