We were lucky enough to pay a visit to Focal Point Gallery in Southend, Essex to watch a workshop with Prince Avenue Primary. Through help from the Royal Opera House Bridge, our partnership investors, we are able to run our three year programme with Focal Point Gallery
Find out more about our Start project here.

The day began with the artists Nastassja Simensky and Laurence Harding giving the children a tour of the galleries. The current exhibition on display is Paul Anthony Harford‘s posthumous showcase ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’. It’s a haunting collection of intricate drawings from the local artist that melancholically capture life and death in a seaside town. They are breathtakingly intimate portraits and self-portraits. The children from Prince Avenue primary school buzzed around the space, excited by the familiarity of the work’s setting. Several hands shot up at every question the artists asked.

We then moved on to the focus of the day: a viewing of Alexandra Leykauf’s 'Caprona'. This is a multiform art project based on the topography of Essex. The children were given a window into Leykauf’s inspirations and her process, and asked to respond to the artwork itself.

After that, the real fun began. Once the tour was over the artists led the children in a workshop based on Leykauf’s project. They were asked to black out an A5 plastic sheet with dark paint. Then, as it was drying, they used toothpicks to scratch off the paint to create a silhouette of a landscape. They were free to choose whatever landscape they wanted to craft. From the pupils there were suggestions ranging from the view outside the window to the White House.

After coming to grips with the unusual technique, the kids really began getting stuck in. Coating the plastic in thick dollops of paint and scratching it off again was a liberating experience for them. After finishing their work, Nastassja and Laurence set up a video camera facing the window. The kids were then encouraged to stick their work side by side on the window to create a topographic collage that silhouetted itself against the sky. This video and others like it will be projected on a screen outside of the gallery when the project is complete, celebrating the children’s creativity.

The day packed with activity and creativity. You could really feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room. One of the teachers remarked that, while painting, the class were the quietest she’d ever heard them.

Both ‘Caprona’ and ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’ are running until the 22nd of April. More information about the gallery and the exhibitions can be found on the Focal Point Gallery’s website.