We shared a lovely day yesterday exploring the paintings and meanings behind the canvases at Tate Liverpool. In all, 16 of us took part, including students attending WEA art classes, a couple of tutors and voluntary members. The natural light through the windows was atmospheric. I knew we were in for a good experience when I marvelled at a whole rainbow, overarching the river Mersey.
The day was introduced by Alison Jones, Programme Manager: Public and Community Learning for Tate Liverpool who welcomed everyone. I then spoke about how excited the WEA is about being able to bring together a mix of adult students, of tutors and a sprinkling of voluntary members to share in what we anticipated to be an enriching, lively experience, outside of the classroom environment. Then, the artist, Susan McCall, introduced the outline for the day. She was to be our guide.
Susan let us see how the paintings on display at the exhibition linked to the themes of power, beauty and space, atmosphere, fire and water and vital force. She held our attention as she demonstrated ‘markings’ on paper (vertical, horizontal, triangular) as guides to the intention of the artists. It was a way in to seeing how the artists’ works inter-related. A good start, I thought, and everyone listened intently, not wanting to miss a thing.
The rest of the morning was taken up by viewing the artworks, including Monet’s Water Lillies, among many glorious works on display. ‘Lillies symbolise grief’, Susan told us. How far was Monet thinking of all the young men, killed during the First World War while he painted? In the afternoon, we got practical. Susan led the group, using first charcoal on a stick to take us out of our comfort zone, then paints.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the workshop. It was only our second collaboration between Tate Liverpool and WEA North West and everyone was enthused by it. We hope in finding out about these opportunities for learning, more and more people will find their way to the WEA, to Tate Liverpool or to others to see and talk about art in a new and fresh way, one which forces them to question their own experience. ‘How will we know?’, someone was heard to ask. ‘By looking again at the paintings and asking why…’, came back the reply.