Dr Katya (Ekaterina) Rogatchevskaia is the Lead Curator of the East European Collections in the British Library. She headed the organization of the Library’s exhibition “Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths’’ which commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
During the meeting, Dr Rogatchevskaia guided us through the exhibition, beginning with its promoting poster. As she admitted, she did not initially like it, but the image used in 20th century by the Red Army for propaganda appeared to be powerful for modern spectators. Dr Rogatchevskaia vividly presented to us not only the history of the Russian Revolution, embodied in the British Library’s exhibits, but also the perception of the revolutions’ impact around the world. At the end of the meeting we could see fragments of Russian films from the first half of the 20th century and observe how those images – although stained with propaganda – managed to leave lasting and emotional impressions.
On May 2nd Mark Lord shared with us his passion for design and tailoring, and how he has become a costumier for many TV and film productions, including the BBC’s recent Dickensian. He explained how he had to work from (often incomplete) scripts, and spot where later episodes required a character to have a particular kind of clothing from the start. For example, if a character beats someone with a belt in episode 10, they have to wear a belt from episode 1. If a character is stabbed in episode 6, Mark has to order five of the same shirt, as scenes often require several takes. He is a stickler for detail, and takes great pains to be historically accurate. Many in his audience were keen to work in different aspects of film, and were very grateful to Mark for the warm, generous and precise advice he gave them.
On Tuesday, the Williams Project was held in Room 3 and the lecture was given by Mrs Inch. She talked about the work of Christo (and his wife Jean-Claude), an incredible artist who created works on a grand scale. Among these works were a giant curtain stretching across a valley, a group of pink booms surrounding eleven Miami islands, and, my personal favourite, a wrapped Reichstag. The talk was very interesting and intriguing, and Mrs Inch was a very good lecturer, speaking with enthusiasm and clarity.
Our Head of Maths, Mr Chaudhary, gave us a vastly wide-ranging and heartfelt exposition of the centrality of the ratio φ (“phi”) in the universe and the human body, and what that centrality meant.
He showed that the ratio (see above, equivalent to 1:1.618…, which is, uniquely, the same as 0.618…:1) lies behind the Fibonacci sequence, which we see in so many growth patterns in animals and plants, as well as in the relationship between a myriad of measurements of the human body. It’s also one of the commonest principles in the way we perceive beauty: painters place horizons at it.
Mr Chaudhary argued that the odds of this one ratio being at the centre of so much were virtually nil, and so it is convincing evidence of divine design behind creation. He showed us verses from the Quran which point out that God has designed the universe in a way whereby we can detect, even deduce, his hand.
Universal Laws and the Golden Ratio
15 Uncanny examples in nature
Disputed observations (Wikipedia)
The Williams Project on 14th May was, I think I can say, a bizarre concept for many of the pupils and teachers at Chigwell to understand, particularly as our venue had shifted to the art block this week. I doubt many had considered Mr Eardley, our Head of Biology, as a painter, so it was always bound to be an interesting experience for all involved. (See an account of Mr Eardley’s previous Williams Project talk.)
Mr Eardley chose his title well: “Anyone can Paint!” told us that he had set out to inspire us in a topic that was unfamiliar perhaps with a lot of busy students and teachers, as it is renowned to be a topic for those with a steady mind and hand. He demonstrated, live (and with a projected video feed), Bob Ross’ method of painting, building up the picture from the top and the background, adding foreground in layers. First sky at the top and water beneath, then clouds, mountains, snow, foothills, trees, banks and finally highlights on the foreground bushes. While he painted he talked, so we learnt invaluable lessons on painting that can be applicable to many areas of life, such as his comments on sacrifice and usingblank areas to create atmosphere. With such a stunning piece for a Tuesday evening, I can now say that anyone can paint… as long as we have inspiring people like Mr Eardley helping us realise our potential. And he did it all in 75 minutes flat, smashing his practice best.
Try zooming in on the photograph below of the finished painting.
Miss Wales, an art teacher here at Chigwell, presented the Williams Project with a fast and challenging explanation of how visual artists revisit each other’s works, as well as the same themes and ideas, across history. The development of art is not to be seen as purely linear, but one which can be seen holistically – stripping away the temporal dimension allows us to respond more personally and genuinely to what we see, rather than having our eyes guided by the label on the wall in the gallery. A fascinating presentation, and one which led to some really perceptive questions and discussion.
Bachelard. G., The Poetics of Space (Boston, Beacon Press, 1994)
Berger, J., Ways of Seeing (London, Penguin Books, 1972)
Bannan, J., The Philosophy of Merleau–Ponty (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967)
Daniel Chandler, Semiotics for Beginners, http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B