Shades of Grey shows how art empowers young minds
Seeing the paintings of Class 9 students of the Gamot Cogon Waldorf School titled Shades of Grey at the Cinematheque Centre Iloilo Gallery was a trip back to the Renaissance (1400–1600) and Baroque (1600–1725) periods.
The art exhibit is a culminating activity for students ages 14 to 16 under the art curriculum. It was organized as a Women’s Month commemoration; hence, it presents contemporary studies, exposition, and experimentation of styles of portraiture on women during the era that were originally rendered by Leonardo da Vinci, Albrect Dürer, Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, Adam de Coster, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, Hendrich Ter Brugghen, Peter Coecke van Aelst, and Simon Vouet.
All in black and white, acrylic on canvas, and uniformly sized 18 x 24, it shows a retake or fresh interpretations of the classic works, yet brilliantly presented by the young artists, even with raw and abstract elements.
Among the 16 female portraits are selected works that carry the title and name of the Grand Old Man of Philippine Art, National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, like Dalagang Bukid by Josef Gabriel Pe; Palay Maiden by Vien Remdy Legayada; and Girl in Tobacco Field by Richelle Faye Cornelia.
Art is a vehicle for learning
The exhibit regards art as a vehicle for learning, and the student-artists applied their work to canvas and showed what they have learned from the art curriculum.
The selection reorients the viewer on the various styles, techniques, and methods that distinctly signified the original artists’ rendition of portraits, showing the young students’ understanding of the historical context of the art period, the subject, the materials used, the lives of the artists, and the patrons of art.
It perhaps explained why portraiture was highly desired among the aristocracy during that time.
See the art exhibit here: Shades of Grey on Reel
One of the prominent characteristics of the collection is the play of light. The student-artists showed their experiments on illumination and light angles, an enduring feature of paintings and portraits of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. In the Philippines, Fernando Amorsolo is hailed as a master of the lighting technique.
In Shades of Grey, Class 9 students played with natural light, sunlight, glow, and backlighting. It displayed their learnings on the technique by presenting an interplay of light and dark, prominent light angles that emphasize a detail, and with some who used the fading glow method, not only to attain a three-dimensional form but to underscore meaning to the works.
Amazingly, the collection is a manifestation of the time that the students have invested in understanding the complexities of rendering lighting to deliver the natural condition of its surroundings, environment, or time during which the art was created, or to provide an illusion of the natural environment formed from the imagination of the artist.
The power of sight and observation
The art exhibit also conveys how the students have utilized the power of sight and observation. The works revealed their skills in translating observations to visuals by applying proportion, value, judgement, and shading to attain overall harmony.
This is again exemplified by their play on lighting. Masterful lighting makes the painting look alive, and it brings together the impression of simplicity and complexity to impart visually pleasing pieces that invite interpretations of the symbols behind every angle, facial expression, or pose. This is probably one of the most significant elements that the students have observed and learned from the masters.
The art exhibit attained the art curriculum’s objective of using art as a learning method that will facilitate appreciation of the process of seeing and understanding.
Shades of Grey trained the “students to grow their powers of sight and observation, through practicing the ability to see shape, line, value, and perspective” and for them to develop the “ability to be objective, to withhold instant judgements of good or bad, love or hate, to see the ranges of complexity within any situation, and grow the critical thinking necessary for true understanding, which comes with time and practice.”
Through Shades of Grey, Gamot Cogon trained the students to see meaning in everyday events and use the power of observation to interpret unfolding phenomena like “the leaves of a tree that aren’t just green, but which range from the deadliest brown to the lightest yellow. To see the darkness and light, there is black, white, and everything in between.”
Gamot Cogon Waldorf School hopes that through the art exercise, Class 9 Mirasol will “emerge from the school better equipped to meet the challenges of this increasingly complex world.”