01 Oct, 2018
10 : 00
Recently, Year 8 students from YCIS Puxi had an exciting learning experience outside of the classroom as they travelled to the Zhujiajiao water town on the outskirts of Shanghai for a day of Art Exploration. The trip was led by teachers including Mr Martin Cockram, Puxi Secondary Head of Visual Arts, and the water town, which was established over 1,700 years ago, was a picturesque place for the session due to its classical Chinese architecture, slow tempo of life, blue skies, and calm tranquillity.
During the excursion, the students discovered the landscape of the town, explored the quaint alleyways and went on a boat trip, all while photographing and sketching all they saw as primary research for an upcoming project.
According to one student, Apple, “It was awesome, and it really changed my view of art! Before this visit, we were drawing landscapes from photographs, but this was real life. We drew pictures of the trees and buildings and tried to capture a memorable moment. Some things moved when we were drawing, so we used our creativity to finish the piece.”
Mr Cockram likened the trip to a quote by the French artist, Henri Matisse, who said that drawing is putting a line around an idea. According to Mr Cockram, “This is how we start off the Year 8s at the beginning of the first semester every year. We take them to explore their host culture, and for our international students who come from outside of China, going to the water town is really about experiencing the place, taking photographs, taking the whole place in through smell, taste, and sight, and they get to start on the first steps of their project.”
Also joining the trip was Mr Mark Montgomery, the Artist-in-Residence at YCIS Puxi, who offered the students advice and sketched his own pieces during the trip as inspiration for the young budding artists.
Mr Montgomery views learning experiences such as this as incredibly beneficial to the students, saying, “It’s very practical for the students as they’re drawing on sight. With landscape drawing, it’s about capturing the atmosphere and environment that you’re in. It’s more than copying a photo: you have to sit, observe, and look. It’s also an excellent opportunity to see a different side of Chinese culture, as the classical architecture contrasts so much with the urban side of Shanghai.”
When they returned to the classroom, the students learned how to edit their photographs: how to crop, how to enhance, or even take away colour from the images. For Mr Cockram, once the students have really thought about and discussed the place they’ve visited and the angles they’ve chosen, that’s when the project really kicks off:
“This trip is about really getting a sense of ‘Where do I put myself in this view? Do I lie down, do I sit, do I stand, do I climb higher up? Where am I in relation to this?’ That’s the starting point for us. That’s how we try to make this personal: it’s all about ‘Where am I in relation to this culture?’”
For the Year 8 students, who are in the Lower Secondary Programme at YCIS Puxi, connecting to Chinese culture through art is one of the many benefits of studying at YCIS, and this project was a fantastic way to start off the year, with many incredible art projects ahead.
To learn more about the full programme for our Years 7–9 (ages 11-14) students, please click here.