By Susan Collins, on 25 March 2011
My visit to the Slade School of Fine Art in March 2011 was no doubt an important event in my life. It has benefited me personally as an artist and also as a teacher.
On 9 March 2011, the day after I reached London, Professor Susan Collins took me to the Slade from my hotel. She introduced me to the office staff and a number of teachers and showed me around all the subject areas. The Slade does not have a huge campus like our Faculty. It is accommodated within one building. I was amazed by the space of the sculpture studio. There is a seminar room, computer lab, a well equipped photography section, print studio with very ancient print machines, a fully fledged bookbinding section. I had not realized at first sight that the building contained so much. After seeing everything my first thought was that though we have a lot of space we have very little of what is necessary in the present age.
As per schedule I attended the seminars of graduate painting in the mornings of 10 and 11 March. Susan had already introduced me to Lisa Milroy who taught in painting. The seminars were under her supervision. Every student presented their contemporary work to other students and teachers. Everyone participates in the discussions with questions from students and teacher. The student who is presenting work has to answer questions and explain. Though I had similar experiences in the past, I noticed the difference in the role of the teacher. The teacher makes no negative comments and gives references if necessary. If something is not clear the teacher asks for clarification. Finally the teacher encourages the student to explore ideas further. The teacher does not force anything on the student. I noticed that painting students were freely working in other media.
I really enjoyed the presentation of the graduate students. I found the explorations of the ‘Body’ project at the Slade Research Centre quite amazing (our students are not given the opportunity to do projects). Here also the work was displayed like an exhibition. Here Lisa again wanted to know about each student individually. The variety of improvisations with the ‘body’ was fascinating. The ensuing general discussion was very useful and informative. I also took part in it.
The MFA Critical Studies seminar on 14 and 15 March was also quite important. This was quite organized with plenty of time and each student was quite serious. Each student projected their presentation and spoke about the work – like an artist representing his/her own work. How the work was initiated, what the personal improvisations were, finally the philosophy behind the whole concept, etc. The question answer session came at the end where both teachers and students participate. The whole process was very inspiring for me.
When I was at the Slade interviews for new students seeking admission was underway. I observed how the interviews were conducted. There is no admission test system like ours in Dhaka. Each student displays a selection of their work, the student is given some time to speak, teachers ask questions and write their remarks independently. The student is photographed with her/his work. Finally everyone decides which students will be accepted. This process make students conscious about their work, concept, and how to present their work. The organized critical presentations of MFA may be said to be an ultimate result of this process. This is why the whole system was quite exciting for me.
The undergraduate seminar with Andrew Stahl was also quite good. I enjoyed the casual way in which Andrew interacted with the students and his humor.
At the very end, on 17 March Susan had organized a presentation of my work. She had put up posters on the doors of the studios. I presented my work in a gathering of students, teachers and a curator after being introduced by Susan. I answered quite a number of questions. I was honored by the enthusiasm of the audience. Thus my visit to Slade came to a conclusion with me thanking everyone and expressing my gratitude.