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The Class Clown

The Class Clown, a case for survival.

I attended several schools, 10 in all spanning three continents. In each one, I had to start from the lowest rung of all. The new girl who looked funny and was from another place.

I learnt to adapt in a way that many children do. The need to blend in yet the desire to express one's being. That passage of childhood, an age that will never return. A time of boundless creativity, exuberance, mischievousness, curiosity and vulnerability. This precious age, often corralled into the regime of our institutionalised education system where one size fits no one.

The Class Clown, (detail) 2023

To hide from the bullying, the push and pull as one tries to figure out why you are a target and what to show, that allows one to stay safe and still participate. To be outcast as a child is very painful. The class clown makes a fool of you, but being funny is a useful tool.

The child hides under the table, a thoughtful child, displays her puppet, her mask. The puppet entertains, delights and smiles. But the pay off is that no one takes you seriously.

The space describes the theatre of the classroom. Referencing the use of flattened space, influenced by Matisse. The red chairs, represent the 'children' in the room. Here I look at two completely different influences, the modernist Mondrian who Gerrit Rietveld interpreted in a chair, Red/Blue Armchair and Kazimir Malevich, a vanguard of the departure from Cubism to the advent of form devoid of reference to reality and the rise of abstraction.

Matisse, The Red Studio, Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition #4 Gerrit Rietveld, Red/Blue Armchair

The chairs in 'The Class Clown' are animated however, as they represent the anonymous child. The centre chair, stretches it's 'arm' as it tries to attract the teachers attention, but they remain invisible. The chair, that lies on the floor, now in the shape of the letter E, an attempt at education, expresses the overturning of the structures that we were forced to conform to.

The 'boy', strides with enthusiasm and playful intent, the yo you spinning, the symbol of his energy, is also stopped, caught between the "ceiling" and the overturned chair, barriers to his advance.

The Class Clown is about the years endured as a child in the classroom. I recently worked as an online tutor, supporting primary aged children in helping them catch up in English. To see them trying to learn, their occasional natural 'cheeky' playful selves showing itself and them seeing them trying again to focus on the 'work' that is pedantic and dull. I was reminded of my own experience, so many years ago.

This work has been selected as a finalist for the upcoming Du Rietz Art Award.

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