Tuesday, 22 February 2011


© The National Gallery London

The National Gallery is full of surprises. In the last few weeks I've  blogged about Bridget Riley's Arcadia and Ben Johnson's View of Richmond House. Both artists were showing work recently completed or still in progress; both are internationally recognised British artists. 

The work seen here, also recently painted, is by an anonymous criminal aged between 15 and 21.

I like this painting's chunkiness; its bold use of a sparing selection of complementary colours; the ceiling which presses down on us; and the disorientation of those crooked and unsteady surfaces. The artist was one of 30 young men who took part in Inside Art, an outreach programme developed in partnership with Feltham Young Offenders Institution. It consists of four projects a year taking place in Feltham’s Art Academy, a centre providing a wide range of creative and performing arts courses.The prisoners are taught by freelance artists who work for the National Gallery, using large-scale prints of famous works to inspire their students. The four projects, which each last a week, focus on practical techniques including sculpture, drawing and painting, and explore themes from the National Gallery collection such as the body, landscape, light and perspective. 

Here is an image of Uccello's Battle of San Romano, painted from a single perspective. The way he foreshortens figures and arranges broken lances forces us to stand still. In contrast the young offender from Feltham has chosen to use multiple viewpoints and our eye is restless, inquisitive and searching as it roams the canvas.

There are 48 works currently on display in the Learning Gallery at the back of the National Gallery. The National Gallery Outreach Officer, Emma Rehm, is quoted as saying, ‘Such experiences and insights are enriching for the young men involved and can help to reduce the risk of reoffending. One participant says,‘I learnt to look at paintings in a different way and see that there is a lot going on and that a painting gives you a message’.

Funding for the project comes from the LankellyChase Foundation.


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