This is probably the most appropriate week ever to be looking at Sargent's 1919 masterpiece 'Gassing'. It is not, however, for remembrance that I have sought out this harrowing, beautiful and hypnotic image. Imagine being in a classroom with thirty fourteen year olds, you can't, nobody can, it's too much, that's an imagining too far. So let's get real, not a roomful, two or three, manageable and little likelihood of hostage taking. You are going to talk about man's inhumanity, suffering, futility, all that stuff. Well these youngsters are the absorbent tissues of our time, surrounded on all sides by imagery, it's an entirely visual world, screw the text give us the pictures, and they get them. Phones, tablets, games, movies, laptops, televisions spewing forth shock and horror it's unremitting. Everyone is an artist these days but for sure everyone is a photographer. In every corpse strewn street, bombed bazaar, railcrash, murder scene there are a dozen desperate dipsticks, hopeful Mcullin's, eager to keep the insatiable web supplied with carrion, and the bleeding and battered babies just don't cut it anymore, barely a wince. So how to proceed with our eager beavers, let's move on from the voyeuristic, journalistic, hapchance and seek out something more considered, perhaps a more subtle approach. The 'Gassing' could get you to the start line. This powerful image has been, in it's making, through the intellectual riddler a dozen times. Nothing here is unconsidered, nothing here is accidentally included, all has been rigorously reasoned, the colour range, harmonies, tones, compositional structures, all has been done to draw you gently in and when you have entered it's world it will ask the questions and the more you understand about painting the clearer the answers become. So here is stuff to be learnt, a language no less. A language with a great history, of great antiquity but which is still evolving, a complex language full of symbolism, metaphor, chemistry, geometry, heart and soul and so on. Last year 830 students who had had a stab at learning a little of this language were examined on their knowledge, not entirely a bad thing, but they could well be amongst the last to suffer this appalling trial. The AQA examination board, the only board offering History of Art A level has decided to drop the subject. In line with the Government instructions to take a fresh look at A level syllabuses, AQA had designed a new course with a broader focus than the previous course, encompassing world cultures, a multi ethnic approach, was there ever a time when this was more appropriate. AQA have now axed the course for economic reasons, they say ''it is challenging to mark and award because of the specialist nature of the topics'',' and they have ''difficulties in recruiting sufficient experienced examiners''. Give us a break, AQA are trying hard not to say,''there's no profit left in this.'' Brilliant, you just know this is the legacy of that prat Gove. There is an online petition, go to change.org. You would assume outrage amongst those remotely involved in art education, check out the Donald Trump of art critics in the Guardian. Mr Jonathan Jones, staggering under the weight of his gigantic chip, he is happy to kiss A level Art goodbye as it is an 'elitist' subject, talk about insecurity or what, I am not going to persist with this it will get vitriolic. You can of course always rely on Courbet for the apposite comment, brilliant.
AGED AND AWKWARD