My starting point for that project was the trademark Spot Paintings of the British conceptual artist Damien Hirst.
Hirst’s grids of coloured spots are produced by studio assistants working to his specific instructions.
The spots are marked out and drawn on the canvas, and then household gloss paints are mixed to create hundreds of colours. No two colours are the same, even on Hirst’s largest canvases.
Left: Damien Hirst, Chloramphenicol-Acetyltransferase, 1996, household gloss paint on canvas
In preparation for this project, I spent several hours cutting out all of the children’s coloured spots (more than 300 between them!), so that the children could transform them into some really exciting contemporary art! Older children could be tasked with cutting out their own spots, but that would have been rather difficult and tedious for my pre-schoolers and would have sucked the enjoyment out of the project.
I started the session by showing the children some photos of Hirst’s Spot Paintings, and talking about the different ways he composed the spots to make geometric formations such as triangles and circles.
The children learned that this kind of art is called ‘abstract art’ because it isn’t trying to look like anything, for example a portrait or a landscape; instead the picture is concerned with the basic elements of art – colour, shape, line or pattern.
Then we looked at photos of a conceptual artwork by a Japanese artist called Yayoi Kusama. This artist started with a completely white room, furnished with a white table, chairs, lights etc. She gave every visitor coloured spots to take into the room and stick wherever they wanted to.
By the end of the exhibition the whole room was covered with spots – and she called it The Obliteration Room. Click here to watch a time lapse video of the installation in progress at Tate Modern. I explained to the children that this is called ‘installation art’ – when an artist puts objects or images into a room/space in order to make it look or feel different in some way.
I challenged my students to first work in teams to create an abstract composition using the spots, and then to work all together to create a huge installation with them! This was SO much fun! We rolled up masking tape to stick onto the back of each spot, and then the fun began!
One group used their spots to transform a corner of the Gym, sticking them all over the wall, floor and the floor to ceiling mirrors, which created an interesting effect.
The other group was let loose on a white-painted section of a corridor outside the art room.
The children even became part of the installation, by sticking some of the spots on themselves!