9 Year old’s Art Wisdom at Jerwood Gallery

I ran a session today at The Jerwood Gallery for a year 4 group from Little Ridge Primary.

We spent a lot of time answering the question “If this picture could speak, what would it say?”

We looked mostly at this picture by Cedric Morris:

(c) Robert S. Davey - Trustee; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

So, children thought about what the blackbird, the plants, the pears and the sky might say if they could speak. When they had their ideas they stood up next to the picture and said them to the group. They came up with extraordinary things that led me onto all sorts of new ideas about this picture.

Someone spoke from the perspective of a plant, feeling the bird’s feet on its back.

Someone was a bug in the ground, looking up at a huge, terrifying giant black shape. The bug remembered being a blackbird in a past life: a mini karmic fable.

Someone said the colours in the back were the northern lights, lighting the picture with its strange glow.

Someone spoke as a plant, remembering the feeling of its first shoots emerging from its stem.

Several children picked up on the idea of being a pear, remembering what it was like to be perfect and new, hanging unbroken on the tree.

Someone wrote a really emotional poem about how the broken stem at the front had been picked on in the past and would rise again and be strong against its enemies in the future.

Someone spoke as volcanic ground, feeling plants grow from the freshly burnt ground.

Several children felt the picture was underwater.

The funny thing is the really crazily over-the-top childlike ideas come round to revealing something about the picture. The northern lights idea draws my attention to the other worldy unlikely colours in the sky. The assumption that it’s under water draws my attention to the sense of watery bluey light and plants waving as if moved by water: we become divers discovering undersea places for the first time.The idea of the volcano and the pear are original poetic ideas about decay and rebirth.

The children wouldn’t have come up with this treasure trove of ideas without seeing the picture. Local collections are a massively valuable, underused starting point for creative adventures.

I’ve never got the appeal of how lots of adults measure and compare pictures against each other when they visit galleries. I don’t feel clever enough for a start. I prefer how these kids look at art- they feed on it and vomit out great ideas! Some savour their food more than others…

I’ve been to the Jerwood hundreds of times but before today I’d never felt much at all about this picture. With imagination and openness a modest picture like this is a portal to all kinds of wondrous trains of thought that lead far, far away from the picture but then back to a better understanding of it. I just needed a bunch of 9 year olds to help me to see it.



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One Comment on “9 Year old’s Art Wisdom at Jerwood Gallery”

  1. Tammie Says:

    thank you for sharing this experience Ed. Considering our world through the perception of children is an amazing experience. I love the colors in this painting and the mix of fruit and flowers, a bird earth and sky, all things i treasure. Lovely week to you.

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