I WASN’T looking forward to reviewing the current show at the Young Gallery: ‘New from Old, Salisbury Schools Art Exhibition’ (until February 28). I imagined it would be like watching a Nativity play without knowing any actors.

Well more fool me, I should hang my head in shame because it is delightful.

If you care for art or education it’s a ‘must see’. The galleries are crammed with all kinds of stuff: scarecrows made from crisp packets, totem poles, painting, photography and ceramics. Overall, the mood it creates is one of joy: that of young people expressing themselves creatively.

We expect art galleries to be ascetic shrines, with the amount of white space a guide to quality, so ‘New from Old’ looks like a jumble sale in comparison. And like a jumble sale, it’s great fun.

Any artist who feels their creativity temporarily blocked will find refreshment here. I bet there are more creative ideas in this show than we’ll see at the Young Gallery all year.

My parents were both teachers, I’ve always been surrounded by teachers (especially art), and have even done some teaching myself, so I know that the art departments who made all this happen deserve some of the credit.

I picked out some personal favourites to remind me of the schools taking part. I found the most exciting and vivacious display to be by South Wilts, and I eventually picked Jessica Lee’s 3D montages of objects of desire, both new and old.

Leehurst Swan, whose head of art David Liversage co-ordinated the show, is very strong on photography; Tilly Cuff and Zarna Mannix-Beale both experiment with three-dimensional ideas to great effect. Another photographer, Toby Swannell from Warminster School shows some mono images with a timeless quality and technique.

Some schools clearly worked in a more collaborative way and didn’t identify individual artists. Woodlands Primary with Oak Tree Nursery produced the scarecrow and other useful items from throwaway stuff, and St Edmunds’ Year 9 made the well-executed totem poles. Winterbourne Earls is also very strong on 3D, with a display of modelled hands.

Chafyn Grove is showing group projects which work well: Year 7 made ceramics based on the Avon, and Year 5 beach scenes. Eventually I chose Ella Mitchell’s work as my pick. From St Joseph’s, I liked Jack Prevett’s clever 3D construction using a printed book, and for St Mary’s, Shaftesbury, I found Harriet Cave’s latex and acrylic painting quite daring.

Bishop Wordsworth is displaying war paintings by Year 11 Jamie Ellis, and I was also particularly moved by a series of ‘war postcards’ by Year 9.

Goldophin’s artwork is of very high quality. The Year 9 landscapes and the Year 8 collagraphs, all excellent, couldn’t quite match my admiration for Year 5 Betty Blythe’s expressionist woodland landscape. What gorgeous colours!

Martin Urmson

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