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The international language of art

vendredi, 15 juillet 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Victoria James (LGB '93)
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Victoria (Oldham) James in 1993I grew up and live in Switzerland. It is a country that has four official national languages and where people generally speak at least three. My passion for finding ways to communicate with others without needing words is no doubt influenced by my international background.

I had the good fortune of having Stephen Preece as my art teacher for the three years that I was at LGB. “Paint, draw, keep at it and don’t think about it too much,” were his words as I muddled through my years of preparing for the International Baccalaureate. Art classes were the time in the week that made the most sense. I would literally run over to the studio so as not to miss a second.

It was Mr Preece who encouraged me to apply for art college and who got me to believe in the language he was helping me refine through visual art. I am forever grateful to him for his consistent support and for believing in me and my work as he did. I got myself into Chelsea College of Art, London, and then began my career as a contemporary artist. My work has been shown internationally in both group and solo exhibitions.

Ecolint LGB Art Dept 1992
The Art Department at LGB in 1992, headed by Stephen Preece (centre), with Mr Greedy, Mrs Jorgensen, Mrs Keefer and Mrs Lagier-Langton.

I recently went to an alumni networking evening where the majority of those present worked either in international humanitarian organizations or finance. What could we possibly find as common ground to connect with one another? And yet my initial misgivings melted within the first few minutes of discussion: we all shared a desire and need to communicate with people from all around the world in as simple and impactful a way as possible. Growing up in such an international environment, you do not “belong” to a single culture, as has seemed to be the case for most who did not go through the international education system. You also do not view yourself as being so separate or “foreign” to people from different countries and cultures.

Real experiences

As an artist, thanks to the internet, I have a vast platform for showing and sharing images. Artists today have the potential to touch such a huge number of extraordinarily diverse people with their work. But people spend so much time in virtual spaces and experiences that I think galleries, museums and artists holding their own exhibitions in “real” spaces are becoming ever more important. People crave and need real spaces, to see real things, have real experiences and let themselves be moved by what surrounds them so as to not remain in their insular-self-made-virtual-reality.

Today more than ever, when it is expected and indeed necessary to have your portfolio in some way available on the internet, I think it is important and equally necessary for any artist wishing to evolve and really touch others through their work to exhibit their work “in person”.

Doing a real exhibition, rather than an online virtual one through a website or social media, is today even more of a privilege than it was back in the 90s when I first started out in this profession and online exposure possibilities mostly didn’t exist. The opening night to an exhibition allows an artist to actually meet the people that enjoy art and hear their opinions without filters. As the artist standing beside the work, you cannot delete the parts you do not like or Photoshop the art to look any different than it really is. It is an enriching opportunity to observe what or whether your work honestly communicates to others.

“Soaring” by Victoria James (acrylic on paper, 15cm x 21cm)

Experiences that are impossible to capture in a photograph, tweet or recording, and that give no inclination to pull out your phone to start an online chat, need to become a priority within western culture. We are in some ways more and more connected and yet in other ways we have never been so disconnected from each other and our surroundings.

Art and art appreciation have continuously evolved through time, as has the role and place of art in culture. Today, the arts have never been at as much risk of dying out, while at the same time having such a significant role. Part of art’s value today surely lies in its ability to communicate in a way that personally resonates in people, without the barriers of differing language, culture or education.

Victoria (Oldham) James (LGB '93)

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The photo of Victoria at the start of this article is taken from the LGB Yearbook 1993.




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