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

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.