Art in schools is unimaginative and academic, says YBA Gavin Turk

Turk, who rose to fame in the 1990s alongside the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, said much teaching was unimaginative and failed to “think outside the box”

Turk, 41, who has three school-age children, said pupils were told to write about art too much rather than being allowed to get on and do it.

He said: “Teaching is much too focused on an academic, esoteric and mechanical version of art. We are not encouraging use of imagination and thinking out of the box nearly enough.

“When you’ve got to write 200 words on something so that it can get marked, I think it becomes rather trite. I understand why they have to do it but it seems there could be other elements to teaching it. It’s too restrictive.”

Fortunately his children had two “crazy parents who let them do anything”, he said, but he feared many were being put off the subject.

Art, he added, was by its very nature difficult to mark.

Turk has first-hand experience of that. Tutors at the Royal College of Art refused to give him a degree after his MA show, which consisted of an empty studio consisting of nothing but an English Heritage-style blue plaque stating: “Borough of Kensington, Gavin Turk, sculptor, worked here, 1989-1991.”

Their dismissal did him no harm as he went on to be collected by Charles Saatchi.

He has helped launch a not-for-profit project called the House of Fairy Tales which aims to help children and others experience art in a more hands-on fashion.

For this week’s London Art Fair the House has produced a portfolio of prints on the subject of fairy tales by 23 artists, including Sir Peter Blake – who designed the Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band album sleeve – Turner Prize winners Jeremy Deller and Rachel Whiteread and sculptor Cornelia Parker.

Turk said all its contributors agreed that the teaching of art needed a shot in the arm.



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