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Inside IB Visual Arts

This is the first in a series of features where we take you ‘inside’ some of the subjects studied at IB Diploma level.  Students are invited to share their experiences, aspirations and what they’re currently working on allowing you to see the ‘subject in action'. 

A recent visit to the Art Department allowed us to talk with Year 12 and 13 Visual Arts students and learn more about their work and we were inspired by some of their recent pieces. 

At TGS we have strong links with alumni, who are a key part of our school community, often returning to TGS to support and inspire current students as they plan their post TGS journeys.  So we also caught up with Georgi who is currently studying Fine Art Printmaking at the University of Brighton with a view to working in Art Therapy.  

Daisy, Year 13

Lost In Translation

In this piece, I addressed the issue of cultural appropriation in fashion, focusing on Indian culture in particular. I explored oil paint and drew inspiration from Howard Hodgkin’s bold colours and broad brushstrokes. Here a young Indian girl has been stripped of her cultural identity through the ignorant actions of the white girl, who dresses herself surrounded by the beauty of the traditional Indian wear, leaving the Indian girl powerless and in the dark. The cultural significance of the sari is lost to Western fashion. I hope this piece can show a fraction of the loss and disrespect felt by those who so often have aspects of their culture and religion Westernised for economic gain.  

An interview with Daisy

What are you planning to do after TGS? 
I’d like to study Architecture at university. I’m particularly interested in sustainable, green architecture. 

How are you supported in your studies? 
The teachers are so helpful.  We’re pushed to think outside our comfort zone conceptually and supported every step of the way.   

TGS Connections (our Alumni network) put me in touch with a former TGS student who studied Architecture at Cambridge who in turn introduced me to two of her contacts.  They all took time to provide me with challenging mock interviews that really helped me when it came to the real thing.  

What do you enjoy most about studying Visual Arts? 
I love the atmosphere of the Art room.  The big windows, interactive nature of lessons and inspiration I get from other students. It feels non-competitive - I enjoy it that we are able to critique each other’s work.   

Daisy is studying:
Higher Level: Visual Arts, Geography, Maths 
Standard Level: French, English Language and Literature, Biology 


Arthur, Year 13

The Pentych Pandemic - Attitudes towards the Coronavirus 

I explored artists’ depictions of plagues in history, and wanted to depict my own contemporary take on the concept of a plague, via the lens of the coronavirus. A key inspiration for my piece was the evocative memento mori painting, L’Umana Fragilitá, by baroque painter Salvator Rosa. Capitalising on features of his painting, I was able to separate these bright warm figures by placing them on a contrastingly dark background to symbolise their isolation from one another in lockdown, an aspect heightened by the way each portrait in the sequence stands alone, with borders separating the subjects. 

An interview with Arthur

What are you planning to do after TGS? 
I’ve applied to do an Art Foundation course next year, with a view to applying to the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford which allows students to study fine art in an academic environment. 

What do you enjoy most about studying Visual Arts? 
I enjoy the fact that the pieces we create have to be in a different media and style, but on the same theme.  I’m exploring differing attitudes to death and this allows me to explore my technique as well as exploring the theme itself. 

Arthur is studying: 
Higher Level: Visual Arts, History, Biology 
Standard Level: Mathematics, English Language and Literature, Spanish 

Jess, Year 12

The topic I chose for my IB art course is the idea of self-expression and self identity, so I created this artwork to represent the freedom in the modern age to express yourselves in any way you desire. I decided that in my piece I wanted to show that makeup should be de feminised and that anyone can wear extravagant eyeshadow looks, for example, without feeling ashamed.

To create this freedom of expression, I used gold leaf on both my figure and the background and within the process of designing my piece, I decided to pick flowers that represent meanings such as self-love and freedom as a way to emphasise the key ideas of my topic and placed them in the background in the style of artist Kehinde Wiley but using the medium of bleach over the top of quink, representing that it is a permanent feeling (as bleach creates permanent effects). Other art mediums I used included Indian ink and charcoal to create my figure. With the idea that charcoal is quite a grounding medium, I decided to draw my figure with this mix of charcoal and ink to express the true nature of the self identity. 

An interview with Jess

What are you planning to do after TGS? 
I’m interested in a career as a theatre set and costume designer or perhaps as a Disney Imagineer.   

What do you enjoy most about studying Visual Arts? 
I love how free it is and the freedom that it gives you to express yourself.  The way the course is designed allows you to explore the themes and ideas that you’re interested in.  


Hannah, Year 12

For my second composition, I wanted to focus on humans' detrimental impact on the world through plastic pollution. I was inspired by a holiday to Southeast Asia. To our horror, the beautiful white beaches of Sri Lanka that we were expecting were covered with plastic pollution and the sand was almost hidden in some areas by the huge extent of waste. My art piece conveys this message through the representation of waste enveloping the beach.

For initial base I used acrylic paints to demonstrate textures of the sand and worked areas of shadows and highlights using a palate knife. A plastic sheet is fixed on top of the scene with a bird and fish tessellation inspired by the Artist, Escher. Within the tessellation is later imprinted plastic waste which shows how the plastic is affecting the animals on the beach and covers up the natural beauty of the shore. Additionally, the composition is interactive as you can swap the places of the fishes symbolising how the waves wash and move the pieces of plastic up and down the beach for years upon end. As a result, the composition portrays how humans' plastic pollution has affected the beaches globally, out disregard for plastic pollution has had destructive and negative effects on natures natural beauty and effected animals' habitats. 

An interview with Hannah

What are you planning to do after TGS? 
I have an interest in Finance and Economics so I may continue my studies in that area.  

What do you enjoy most about studying Visual Arts? 
It’s very relaxed and provides a welcome breather in my week.  It allows me to explore the ideas I’m interested in and provides the space to talk these through these with my classmates and teachers.  

The theme that I am exploring is nature and its impact on the world which links with human architects and humans’ impact on nature. My current piece is based on a photograph of a litter strewn beach I took when I was in Sri Lanka. 

Hannah is studying: 
Higher Level: Visual Arts, Economics, Mathematics (Applications & Interpretation) 
Standard Level – Environmental Systems & Societies, Spanish, English Language & Literature 

Georgi, Alumna

What did you do after TGS? 
I decided to pursue a higher education in art, inspired by the Art teachers who I admired who had done so, as well as an impassioned alumna who visited to talk about her experience on a BA Fine Art Painting course. This began with an art and design foundation course at City and Guilds of London Art School, where I achieved a distinction, followed by a BA in Fine Art Printmaking at the University of Brighton.  

What are your career plans? 
Since my time at TGS, where the Art teachers avidly encouraged me to express the personal connection between Art and well-being that I felt important, I have considered pursuing a career in Art Therapy or Speech and Language Therapy. Both options require a specific Master’s Degree and a year’s relevant work experience; I hope to gain mine as a Teaching Assistant in an SEN school.  

What do you feel is special about TGS?  
TGS empowers students to honour their true ambitions, through excellent quality teaching that goes above and beyond establishing thorough understanding of content to feeling as though each teacher knows and caters to your needs well, both educational and pastoral. The outstanding memory for me will always be the dedication of the Art teachers to their subject and the way in which they empowered me to excel through genuine investment in my ambition as an artist. The well-being support was also invaluable and unforgettable.  

Have you remained in touch with School since you left?  
I have remained in contact with the Art teachers, who continue to offer their support to me in whatever ways they can. I enjoy having these connections to practising artists, whose opinions and careers I respect greatly. I also had the pleasure of returning to TGS and engaging with students in their classes, as well as observing an Art session held by current Year 12 students for students from the Nexus School, with whom TGS run their current outreach programme. On this day, I also reconnected with the teacher who organised the equivalent when I was at school, as well as the well-being support teacher.  

Which subjects did you take for your IB Diploma? 
I took higher Art, Philosophy and Spanish (which I continue to speak at an advanced level), as well as standard English, Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS) and Maths Studies.