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How did we get here? The Arabella magazine explores 450th anniversary theme

QE’s pupil-run arts magazine, The Arabella, looks both to the past and the future in a special edition for the School’s 450th anniversary year.

The 44-page publication features 26 pieces of poetry, prose, and art, many of them inspired by its anniversary-related theme, How did we get here? The approach, looking both backward and forward, mirrors that of the School’s anniversary celebrations on Founder’s Day which included a display of the School’s 1573 Royal Charter alongside the burying of a time capsule intended for the pupils of 2073, when QE will mark its 500th anniversary. Work on the magazine began last academic year, but it has only now been published.

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “The ninth edition of The Arabella has been worth the wait: with its expanded contents and an eclectic mix of topics and styles, it is a great demonstration of the fruits of free-thinking scholarship and academic curiosity.”

The magazine includes contributions from boys throughout the School, although boys from the current Years 8 and 9 feature especially heavily.

In his introduction, one of the editors, Chanakya Seetharam, of Year 12, addresses his fellow QE pupils: “Just as the [450th anniversary thanksgiving] service at Westminster Abbey in the Spring Term so well captured, this is as much cause to look back with an inquisitive eye into the past as to look forward to the future. It is this spirit of investigation that is the kernel of this edition, and which was so well taken up by you….

“You are what keeps The Arabella alive. This is a magazine by you and for you. We hope you will find all of the work here thoroughly insightful, interesting, and enjoyable, and here’s to a great next edition!”

The poetry section is highly varied, with contributions ranging from Year 9 boy Yingqiao Zhao’s piece about the moon – which is in the shape of a crescent and has key words picked out in different colours – to the nine-stanza rhyming French poem, La Mort de L’Ancien, composed by Year 13’s Aayush Backory. The poetry section closes with Nikhil Francine, of Year 9, addressing the anniversary directly with a poem entitled Thriving from Ancient Roots – the School’s slogan for the anniversary year.

The creative writing pages included Year 9 pupil Raaghav Dhanasekaran predicting a dystopian future amid huge hurricanes caused by climate change.

The music writing section on the other hand looks mostly to the past, from Nikhil Francine’s essay on A brief history of song to Moneshan Rathaparan and Eshwara Masina, both of Year 8, jointly exploring The Enduring Influence of Classical and Baroque Music on Contemporary Culture.

Year 12 student Akheel Kale, from the editorial team, praises the quality of Year 13 pupil Ashish Yeruva’s essay on Justice for Ukraine: How to Put Russian Leaders on Trial Using International Law. Ashish’s contribution had inspired the team to open a current affairs section in the magazine and to invite further such submissions in the future, Akheel says.

Similarly, the magazine has a new section on Science, featuring Year 10 boy Zain Syed’s submission of an extensive flow chart setting out A Natural History of the Earth.

Interspersed throughout The Arabella are artworks exploring themes including Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity; Dystopian Landscape; and Art Inspired by Music. Shown in this news story, from top to bottom, are:

  • Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity, by Sushan Naresh, Year 10 (main image)
  • Dystopian Landscape, by Krishav Sundar Rajan, Year 9
  • Art Inspired by Music, by Galinghan Balamurugan, Year 8
  • Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity, by Ayush Saha, Year 10

The magazine is named after Arabella Stuart, a descendant of Henry VII and sixth in line to the throne, who fell foul of King James I when in 1610 she secretly married another potential heir to the throne, William Seymore. Her husband was sent to the Tower of London, while Arabella was committed to the care of the Bishop of Durham, but fell ill in Barnet en route. She stayed for some months at the home of QE Governor Thomas Conyers, her spiritual needs attended to by another Governor, Rev Matthias Milward, who was subsequently appointed Master (Headmaster) of the School.

  • For anyone with access to the School’s eQE portal, The Arabella is available to read here.
Pupil’s plea for a greener world impresses judges in Imperial art competition

Year 9’s Kelvin Chen will see his work displayed on billboards in London ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) starting next month after achieving success in a national art competition.

His colourful depiction of young people taking action to create a greener planet – entitled Friends of the Earth – took third place in the Climate Art Prize contest organised by Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute.

As well as the billboard display and £250 in cash, Kelvin’s prize will include seeing his piece alongside a mural in Nine Elms, close to the newly revamped Battersea Power station, that will also include the institute’s 9 things you can do about climate change.

Head of Art Craig Wheatley said: “My congratulations go to Kelvin, who followed the suggestion of my colleague, Jeanne Nicodemus, to enter and was then one of only nine winners and runners-up out of more than 1,000 entries.”

For the biennial competition, the institute, which is a research centre for climate change and the environment, challenged entrants aged 11-25 to create bold designs for outdoor public murals focused on the solutions needed to tackle the climate crisis.

For inspiration, they could look to the institute’s Climate Action Hub’s suggestions for positive actions everyone can take to reduce their impact on the planet, including reducing energy use and bills, green travel, protecting nature and eating less meat and dairy. Young people were asked to interpret these themes and focus on at least one of them when depicting their visions of a greener, cleaner, cooler future world.

The winning entries in each category will become public murals across the UK – in Glasgow, Coventry and West Norwood in London – painted by professional artists.

In his submission, Kelvin, whose third place was in the 11–14 age category, said that his piece of art has “a deep meaning behind it symbolising the actions of many people who have a passion for protecting and nurturing the planet.

“Some of the actions are shown in this drawing,” he wrote. “The left person is painting the world green, showing afforestation and protecting the world’s green spaces; the person in the middle, placing some wind turbines into the Earth, a form of renewable energy; and the person on the right is taking some of the rubbish thrown into the ocean out of the Earth’s waters.”

Speaking about his motivation to participate in the competition, Kelvin said: “I have a passion for tackling climate change and my drawing aims to inspire people to act. I think the environment should be a higher priority for the government, but there are also things we can all do to help the world.

“I’m also always up for a competition. I was excited when I received the email to say I had been chosen in third place.”

Kelvin is pictured receiving a prize at July’s QE Junior Awards ceremony from guest of honour Sunil Tailor (OE 1999–2006). As for the £250 prize money… “I’ve given it to my parents” he said.

Creativity inspired by tragedy: remembering the Grenfell Tower fire on A-level Art trip

Ten Art & Design pupils from Year 13 spent a day exploring some very different exhibitions in London to gain inspiration for the final stages of their A-levels.

First stop was the Tate Britain, where they visited the very recently opened Requiem exhibition by British painter Chris Ofili. Huge and colourful, it commemorates the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and the life of Khadija Saye, a fast-rising Gambian-British photographer who died in the 2017 blaze.

Head of Art Craig Wheatley said the boys had been moved by what they saw there: “The scale and beauty of such a poetic piece that highlights the tragedy was very poignant and a reminder of the impact art can have on the viewer.

“Overall, the art we saw during the day was diverse and thought-provoking; the pupils experienced areas and spaces of London for the first time, and I believe the day was a great success – even the weather was kind to us!” Mr Wheatley explained that the focus of the trip was to shape the final-year students’ ideas and thinking for ‘Component 1’ – non-examined coursework involving ‘personal investigation’ which is worth 60% of their eventual A-level grade.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “At Queen Elizabeth’s School, we are keen to take advantage of our position in one of the world’s great capital cities, and this trip was an excellent example of our boys taking advantage of the exciting cultural, intellectual and sporting opportunities that London affords. I wish I had been able to join them!”

Moving on from the Tate, the group walked to Newport Street Gallery and enjoyed the glass work of British artist Brian Clarke.

“Vast in scale, the work offered an opportunity for the boys to consider material use and a wide range of visual themes, from motifs and patterns to more literal representation using combinations of colour, glass, print and lead,” said Mr Wheatley.

Then it was a further walk to the South Bank to take in the bamboo installation by Indian Asim Waqif on the Hayward Gallery terrace. “The juxtaposition of the natural forms of the bamboo against the brutalist design of the South Bank gave the boys interested in architecture and sculpture a fantastic first-hand experience that they will be able to respond to in their own work,” Mr Wheatley added.

A bus ride followed to look at Ethiopian American painter Julie Mehretu’s solo exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey. Entitled They departed for their own country another way (a 9x9x9 hauntology), the paintings used images taken from current affairs media as her subjects, especially the war in Ukraine and the US Capitol insurrection of 6th January 2021.

The exhibition explored themes of conflict, displacement and the asymmetry of power. Mr Wheatley said: “The large abstract pieces challenged the boys’ understanding of artwork that makes numerous social and political references without the use of a literal visual narrative.”

After crossing London by tube, the boys’ final stop was the Sadie Coles HQ gallery, just off Regent Street, for an exhibition of the work of London-based Alvaro Barrington, the son of a Grenadian mother and Haitian father. “The vibrant sculptures inspired by memories of shacks in Grenada, combined with video and photographic imagery of Notting Hill Carnival, functioned as a visual tool and signifier of cultural and political histories that the pupils could engage with,” Mr Wheatley concluded.

Joint life-drawing classes with the girls, as QE Together expands its scope

Senior pupils from Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School joined A-level Art students at Queen’s Road for special life-drawing sessions during QE’s Arts Week.

Together with the girls’ participation in filming a promotional video and in a Sketch-off event held as part of QE’s Design Festival earlier in the Summer Term, the life-drawing sessions mark an expansion of the work of the QE Together partnership, which had previously focused on community activities.

Head of Art Craig Wheatley explained the sessions’ importance: “Life-drawing is rooted in a traditional and historical practice; students can develop their observational drawing skills and gain a better understanding of anatomy and human form.

“Our Arts Week seemed like a perfect opportunity to re-introduce this extra-curricular activity; inviting the girls was another chance for pupils from both schools to share a creative experience.”

Mr Wheatley paid tribute to the specialist teaching experience of his QE Art department colleagues, Jeanne Nicodemus and Alison Lefteri, who led the sessions. He added that feedback from the participating students was very positive.

Led by pupils from the two schools, QE Together continued its community activities, with musicians coming together for another concert for care home residents.

Pupils from QE and QEGS also teamed up to appear in the  promotional video for School Diversity Week for LGBT+ charity, Just Like Us.

Filmed by Deloitte and shown at a launch hosted by JP Morgan Chase, the film included the senior boys and girls holding up coloured card, with letters superimposed in post-production to spell out key messages for the week.

Not all the pupils who participated are part of the LGBTQ+ community; they are instead allies, supporting the promotion of inclusion in all schools across the country.

QE Together is one of the newest of QE’s partnerships. The School also has firmly established academic partnerships with North London Collegiate School and The Henrietta Barnett School.

During the Summer Term, Year 10 headed to NLCS for an inter-disciplinary symposium on Change and Renewal.

With HBS, in addition to Year 10 and 12 events, 144 selected Year 8 pupils from both schools vigorously debated contentious topics, including This House believes it was right to arrest the protesters at the King’s coronation.

Drawing inspiration: boys view work of artist Phyllida Barlow on Tate Modern visit

Twenty Year 10 GCSE Art students seized the opportunity to study at first-hand the work of leading British artist Dame Phyllida Barlow – a key figure in their current lessons.

The boys, who have spent the term using her Bad Copies series as a starting point to develop their painting and drawing skills, headed straight to the rooms in Tate Modern’s Materials and Objects collection dedicated to her work.

Head of Art Craig Wheatley explained why her paintings and drawings are so influential: “Barlow’s drawings are often derived from her environment, but never drawn from life; they range from swift biro and pencil sketches in notebooks and diaries to more heavily worked acrylic drawings and oil paintings, which experiment with surface textures as well as colours, forms and arrangements.”

The boys also enjoyed finding out about aspects of her oeuvre that were less familiar to them: “After responding to Barlow’s paintings and drawings, the natural progression was to explore and respond to her three-dimensional work.”

During the visit, the boys took time to analyse and record their observations in the form of written annotation and observational drawing. Guided by teaching staff, they were challenged to contemplate the meaning of the works on display and the artist’s intention, giving both objective analysis and subjective opinion.

There was also time for them to explore the gallery space independently, so that they could make comparisons between different genres.

“It was a productive day: starting at St Paul’s Cathedral, we walked across the Millennium Bridge photographing the ever-evolving landscape, before enjoying a great time at Tate Modern – the first visit for a majority of the boys,” said Mr Wheatley.

“They enjoyed the opportunity to see artwork first-hand and to be inspired. Having their appreciation and understanding challenged is significant in ensuring that pupils’ own work continues to develop and become more sophisticated.

“Furthermore, the visit developed their ability in out-of-classroom research and in generating independent ideas. Those are transferrable skills that the boys will be able to apply across their current and future curriculum.”

Born in 1944, Barlow taught for 40 years and in 2004 was appointed Professor of Fine Art and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Slade School of Art before retiring from teaching in 2009.

Her break as an artist came late: it was in 2010 when she was shown at the Serpentine Galleries. Solo exhibitions around the world followed, and in 2017 she represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale.

She has had an important influence on younger artists, including Rachel Whiteread and Angela de la Cruz, who were among her students at the Slade.