John Mitchell (PG Fine Art, 1980 and PG Art Teacher’s Certificate, 1985) is a multi-media artist currently working on a series of photo-based projects. He also studied BA Drawing and Painting (1978) at Edinburgh College of Art and MA Education (1991) at the Institute of Education, University of London. His work was recently included in the exhibition “Nature Morte – Contemporary artists reinvigorate the Still-Life tradition”, named after the book of the same title. The exhibition toured Scandinavia, Poland and London, UK.
My experience at Goldsmiths College was a welcome contrast to the experience I had studying at Edinburgh College of Art, which was very traditional. In 1977, I was awarded a fellowship by Edinburgh College of Art to attend a summer school at Yale University, which was very intensive and challenging in that students were encouraged to articulate what they were addressing in their work. The experience of being in that challenging environment was continued at Goldsmiths. Students at Goldsmiths were treated as young artists from the word go and expected to forge a personal path in their work while engaging in a dialogue with fellow students and staff. Being treated as an equal by staff, for me, was the most important aspect of the approach to teaching at Goldsmiths.
The project I wish to highlight was completed four years ago but is still very relevant today in relation to the recent Goldlink posts about World War I. My project was an exhibition held at Pavilion Library in Brighton in 2014 called ‘Homage’. I came up with the idea for the project as a result of moving from London to Brighton and wanting to mount an exhibition of new work. The theme of the exhibition arose when I found a French bottle rack in a flea market in Brighton. The connection between this object, selected by Marcel Duchamp in 1914 as a ready-made (a new description of an art work coined by Duchamp), and my grandfather’s participation in WWI was the stimulus for what became the ‘Homage’ installation.
HOMAGE: This work is a homage to all of those affected by the First World War of 1914-1918, to the men (including my grandfather, David Mitchell, who was a prisoner for the duration of the war) and young boys who perished. And to the women who lost their men and boys, whether it be father, husband, fiancee, boyfriend or brother. It also pays homage to Marcel Duchamp, a leading artist of the anti-war movement, Dada. It is exactly 100 years since he selected and signed a porte bouteille (bottle rack), which along with his other ‘ready-mades’ changed the course of art in the 20th century.
The work can be ‘read’ in a number of ways and is contingent upon the viewer’s personal experience and knowledge of art. It was my intention to produce a visually engaging work that will raise questions in the viewer’s mind about the nature of art and the consequences of war.