Professor Eileen Hogan

This series of publications is part of Wimbledon College
of Art’s assessment of its progress to date. The books
articulate the evolution and focus of the research groups
and reflect the beneficial interaction that has flowed
between the different disciplines, summarising key issues
and allowing us to take stock and determine the work
still to be done.
For one week in the autumn term of each year College
staff gather to share their research, discuss new initiatives
and determine future directions; students are invited
to be part of the audience. In 2006 the research week
was held at Tate Britain and chaired by Professor Roger
Wilson. An important emphasis was the accountability
and transparency of clusters of researchers in relation
to the academic structure. These groups have been
strengthened by regular meetings each term during
which themes that arose out of research week have
been developed.
The research week is a key tool for recognising research
groups, or clusters, and the titles of the books in this
series have arisen from themes that were identified
during the discussions: Professors; Readers; Promising
Researchers (the latter a group funded by The Higher
Education Funding Council for England). The other
clusters represented in this publication – Drawing,
Narration, Interpretation and Iconography and Archives –
represent key research themes at the College and
future books are planned which will evolve around inter
cultural performance in Africa and the African diaspora.
As part of the process of developing the texts, wherever
possible Professor William Furlong conducted a recorded
conversation with each researcher, probing the sources
which drive the individual’s work, defining its form
and content, and exploring its relation to the output of
colleagues. (Furlong’s own recording was conducted by
Professor Mel Gooding.) The present publications will
feed back into other research weeks and will, I hope,
provide a template for future College research groups.

Professor Roger Wilson
In the forty years since the first graduates of Art and
Design emerged from art schools those of us remaining
in ‘the system’ have been party to a professional
transformation. The impact of external factors, from the
‘massification’ of Higher Education to the demands of
audit of teaching and research, have required the
generation of new competencies. Those ‘new realities’,
however, are common to all. I am thinking more of the
distinctive characteristics of work in Art and Design
Higher Education, formed in part by our history and an
attachment to the notion that the practice of art beyond
the walls of the academy is a highly desirable influence.
That influence, though, is manifest not in terms of
professional standards as in the case of, say, architecture
or medicine, but as a pull on the collective consciousness
and our behavioural traits. We attend as much to the
work of art as to the works of art.
We inherited the idealist educator from the nineteenth
century, insisting on the absolute standards of craft linked,
unproblematically, to economic and social reform. We
then witnessed the artist as inspirational, yet grudging,
educator followed by, and possibly as a consequence,
the emergence of educational managerialism. It didn’t
end there, though, as we have over that forty-year period
evolved our academic identities through institutional
needs and our persistent attachment to practice. In
those early days of what I will call the modern period of
art education, commencing in the mid-1960s with the
products of the Coldstream Report, an enquiry-based
educational model replaced the nationally standardised
examination of technical and formal values. From
sublime execution to exquisite application in a single
bound with what looks now like an uncritical embrace of
a Bauhaus-like approach. In this period the identities of
artist and teacher seemed irreconcilable, particularly so
in the setting of the Polytechnic, which was the home for
the majority of the nation’s provision. The solution at the
time appeared to be to either to fight for greater tolerance
in academe of the artist persona, usually by writing into
the curriculum the tutor’s artistic practice as a model, or
to make a distinction in the staffing profile between artists
(usually part-time) and art educationalists (usually full-time)
with administrative and operational responsibilities. Of
course, no one wanted to be identified as the latter.
We can gain a measure of how much attitudes to our work
in art education have changed by looking at a publication
from 1965, A Private View, which in addition to surveying
both prominent and up-and-coming artists of the 1960s
also offered commentary on cultural institutions including
art schools. In an exchange between the book’s two
authors Bryan Robertson and John Russell, they agree
that ‘The only art educationalist is Lawrence Gowing’ but
then dismiss him and other ‘thinker-educators’ as prone
to ’sink themselves into their schools to the extent, almost,
of immolating their own creative gifts.’
The dream team in any art school according to Robertson
and Russell is comprised of three personalities: ‘One is
the painter of real stature who comes into the art school
perhaps one day a week, rather as a wild animal may
consent to come into a cage. The second is the painter
or sculptor who is so intensely concentrated on his own
development as an artist that the student is drawn into the
adventure and gets nearer than he ever may in his own
career to the sources of creative energy. And the third is
the sort of artist who never tries to impose his own way of
painting or sculpting but just happens to be an exemplary
human being to have around.’
Whilst parallels between the 1960s and the present have
been drawn in terms of art’s popularity, artists’ celebrity
and the place of both in the promotion of a desirable
life-style, the role and definition of the artist/teacher has
changed significantly in the intervening years. An important
influence on that change has been research, placing
before both teachers and artist/teachers an intellectual
challenge that has driven the former contested territories
of the artist/art educator to the margins. Research
demanded not only working definitions and conditions
in its own right; it also generated questions of those underlying
assumptions that protected the causal link between
the artistic practices of teaching staff and the curriculum.
It also allowed the work of the academy and the artist/
teacher to be the subject of systematic enquiry, exploding
some myths but adding weight to practices in Art and
Design teaching that have hitherto been under articulated.
Over that forty-year period the transforming agent in
the academy has moved from the curriculum, as it first
achieved parity with the rest of Higher Education and
then effectiveness in moving from the ‘conservatoire’ to
the factory, to the site of research as the new home for
that enquiry-led practice of the 1960s. In this research
location we will have to help define the academic task,
provide house room for cultural guerrillas as well as
cultural industries and inform the material transformation
of our institutions as well as contributing to the evolving
curricula – because if it doesn’t come from this source,
where else will it come from?


Roger Wilson is an artist, writer and itinerant academic.
Over the last thirty-five years he has worked in colleges
and universities in the United Kingdom, United States and
Europe. He was until 2006 Head of the Chelsea College
of Art and is currently Research Professor, University
of the Arts London.

Research at Wimbledon
Wimbledon College of Art
Main Building
Merton Hall Road, London SW19 3QA
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7514 9708
Fax: +44 (0)20 7514 9642

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