‘Drawing with My Students’ - The Role of Surrealism in Self-Expression among University Art Students. Analysis of Selected Surrealistic Work by Fourth Year Students at Kenyatta University
Surrealistic art is one of the most engaging and intriguing art genres. Surrealism itself is considered to have been the most influential art movement of the 20th century. Started in the 1920s as a literary movement that eventually took on a visual dimension, its foundational principles have continued to influence the thought process and style of many modern artists in the realm of self-expression. In their studies of many disciplines in the art including genres of painting, drawing and sculpture, students of art at the University usually find the concept of surrealism initially difficult to decipher mainly because of the uniqueness of its own description. The dream-like imageries of surrealism are derived from dreams and the unconscious mind; hence, the students have to contend with the derivation of subject matter from an unusual source. This is challenging for most of them since they are used to formulating subject matter from a purely academic perspective and from themes that they ordinarily relate to in their environment or can easily reference. Although students embark on drawing from their first year of study, they are introduced to surrealistic drawing as a unit in their final year. With their drawing background, it is presumed that by their final year, they have attained adequate levels of drawing skills for application in any artistic challenge. This study examines, through analysis of selected works, firstly, the extent to which students are able to internalise the concept of surrealism and apply it in the construction of the artistic composition, and secondly whether their drawings demonstrate an individual capacity for self-expression and the derivation of meaning, through dream-like imageries drawn from the unconscious mind. The students were exposed to preliminary studies and examination of surrealistic work, discussions of subject matter, origination, style and technique in the course of their unit programme. For the purpose of uniformity of medium, they were instructed to work only in pencil. They were subsequently accorded adequate time and space to embark on their work with class presentations and discussions at prescribed intervals. The resultant drawings were many and varied and the ones selected are those that displayed good artistic execution and/or displayed a certain profoundness of meaning or interpretation.
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