The Department of Sculpture and Environmental Art offers two programmes, each with its own distinct focus. Sculpture has been taught at the GSA since before the turn of the 20th century, with the Environmental Art programme being established nearly 100 years later in the mid 1980s.
The scope of Sculpture has widened, extending the conventional boundaries of object making to encompass both traditional and contemporary materials and media. The language of spatial and material practice taught by the department is based on construction, casting and fabrication and extends through to more time based art practices such as video, performance and installation. The course recognises and embraces this breadth, and actively encourages students to think independently and critically in order to gain a command of the conceptual and technical processes appropriate to this expanded field of sculptural practice.
The core objectives of the Programme are to develop the practical and philosophical understanding of the subject of sculpture; to develop practical skills and the ability to mediate ideas through materials and process; and to develop the ability and confidence to critique and communicate about sculpture, both historical and contemporary. This is achieved through a programme of study that integrates both theory and process, informing the experience of sculpture practice from its historical beginnings to current contemporary practice.
The Programme prepares students for working as artists in the contemporary world. While galleries and museums remain major places for art to be viewed, opportunities for artists to make work in and for other contexts and places have increased enormously. To this end, the course offers not only the opportunity to exhibit in the traditional sense, but also explores these other contexts. This contextual approach to art is explored through the Public Art Project, which each student carries out in each year of the course. In this respect, Environmental Art is one of the few programmes in the UK in which students are specifically prepared for this kind of art practice.
Skills and understanding are gained through students experiencing a broad range of skills in drawing, casting, wood and metal fabrication, photography, video, computers and sound. Seminars and lectures on the history, theory and professional practices of public art, in its broadest sense, are an integral part of the programme. Students are expected to focus their activities in terms of concept and medium and to develop a self-directed art practice with a considered understanding of the context in which the work resides and is understood.
Core objectives are to develop in students an informed understanding and use of language in materials/media and ideas, and to make art in response to a context. Students will also have formed a confident, critical language in response to contemporary art practice.
Forum for Critical Inquiry
A element of the programme is delivered by the Forum for Critical Inquiry (FoCI) The Forum is an essential component of the programme. For most of the four years of undergraduate programmes in design and fine art, one day per week of the student timetable is allocated to the Forum. It is a cross-school and externally linked critical mass of diverse research expertise in broad-based critical studies for contemporary creative practices in design, art and architecture.
The range of teaching styles varies from traditional keynote lectures to interactive discussion groups and experiential learning. Courses are constructed in order to both underpin studio practice and to open out and extend the range of student research.
All students are required to attend lectures and discussion groups, to make oral presentations, to write essays and in the final year, to present a piece of personal research in the form of an Extended Essay (20% of the final degree mark) or a Dissertation (30% of the final degree mark).
Students requiring learning support are provided with additional teaching tailored to individual needs. Each student also has a departmental contact tutor who acts in an advisory and pastoral capacity in relation to progress in Forum for Critical Inquiry.