Life, Seen Through Art: Starting Young

A cherubic young girl lies in the bath, dark hair floating from her head. She is revelling in a moment of tranquil pleasure. In this self-portrait, 11-year-old Georgia Marshall Evangelou said “In other countries people would not have this water, or the time, to do such a thing.”

Nathan Roach, 17, presents a stark photographic image of himself hands stretched out in front, as if to escape the mass of dark images surrounding him, “the many pressures teenagers experience, the feeling of being trapped or suffocated under pressure to succeed, fears of being bullied because of the way we look and dress”.

The work of Emily Daniel,16, shows a girl’s face, the mouth held tight with a collection of safety pins, a strong representation of how young people feel silenced, censored and watched.

These are some of this year’s entrants in the Equality and Human Rights commission’s Young Brits at Art competition. The kids had a lot to say, socially, politically, but they are also young and inexperienced in technique. So why does this work as art?

Art is expression: the process starts with feeling some sort of emotion about some sort of something, and kids in their teens are just emerging into newer, fresher ideas, thoughts, concepts. They are trying to find a home for their new feelings, and so they are thinking deeply and trying to express themselves in ways other than through verbal or physical avenues. They are just emerging into the social sphere on a wider level, and so they have an unadulterated and perhaps unique perspective.

One competition judge said that she reviewed all the works based on the “emotional response” she felt from each work. And since younger artists have likely seen fewer and less varied works of art, they are therefore drawing from a more organic (less pre-defined or concrete) sense of expression. If so, a child’s work may convey a concept much differently than a more seasoned artist would. There’s a lot to learn by unlocking whatever runs rampant in the heads of kiddos.