Exeposé Arts Issue 614 (29 October 2013) and Exeposé Arts online (3 November 2013)
“Art is all around us,” insisted the secondary school teacher intent on evoking some creative epiphany in the minds of 30 adolescents already counting down the agonising minutes until lunchtime.
Even as one of the few with an actual interest in drawing and painting, rather than flicking PVA glue across the classroom and taking extended toilet trips to “wash the paint off our hands”, this was a difficult concept for my 12-year-old self to appreciate.
However, these first few weeks of life, work and play on Streatham Campus have truly opened my eyes to the exhilaration of finding art in everything around us.
Not that artistic influence is difficult to come across here, the pulsing heart of Streatham activity: The Forum is no exception. While Alexander Beleschenko’s ‘Path’ adorns the windows of the building in swathes of colour, a walk through the current exhibition on the Paris Fine Art Salon feels like a momentary trip to the gallery, a bubble of culture and reflection to escape into between lectures.
On the southern Piazza, the smooth marble teardrop of Dominic Welch’s ‘Rising’ draws from organic influences, whereas Roger Leigh’s ‘Partition 8/6 x 3’, a short walk away towards Queens Building, brings about sharp contrast with its harsh folds and corners.
However, learning how the “orange side responds to the warm ochre of the cornfields in the distance” and the green “reflects the lawn beyond it” inspires new interpretations of this seemingly inorganic structure.
Outside the Peter Chalk Centre, the human form intertwines with nature in Vivien Rhys Pryce’s ‘The Minoprio Fountain’ and in Queens Building’s the dedicated Art Society studio space demonstrates students’ art being displayed and admired freely.
However, my first true realisation that I was in fact surrounded by art came during a walk between Peter Chalk and Queens. Happening to glance up, I saw for the first time the spectacular clock tower of Northcote House, and found myself pausing in amazement that this beautiful structure had escaped my notice for so long.
Stepping closer, the Exeter University crest above the door awakened a sense of elation as I saw myself connected with this structure – a part of the artwork. Moments like these, I believe, capture the true meaning of the all too common saying: “art is all around us”.
The feeling evoked shouldn’t be a forced sense of obligation, or a struggle to find meaning in reputed and renowned pieces. Perhaps the most meaningful art is that which feels as though it’s speaking to you. The art you feel responsible for seeking out and appreciating in a way no-one else does.
For me, the first few golden leaves on a tree awakened that feeling. A visual reminder of the time which had somehow already passed since that tearful goodbye at the start of Freshers’ week, those few yellowed outliers surrounded by green seemed to represent something to me which I couldn’t immediately explain. Perhaps those few tiny emotional alterations I’d begun to make; the tentative steps towards independence, and adjustment to this new life, which a few weeks ago hadn’t seemed possible. And yet to the next person walking by, these colours would almost definitely evoke an entirely different response, or none at all.
We’re fortunate here at Streatham: the work displayed around campus is admirable, inspiring and innovative. Arguably, however, art is anything capable of awaking feelings and inspiration in an individual, then embodying these feelings. All it takes is one moment of realisation to truly appreciate the assertion drilled into us by our exasperated art teacher all those years ago. Yes, art is all around us.