Pride and Romance – painting life-sized figures in our art sessions

3figures combinedTwo weeks into our block of art sessions and the young people have settled into a routine, word of mouth has spread and numbers have swelled. We have moved on from clay sculpture to creating three life-sized figures, painted to represent themselves as they would like to be in the future, “if dreams came true”. The face would later be removed so they can stand behind it and add their own face through the hole.

Two of the young people who had not really engaged in the clay work (preferring to watch or spend the time texting) really took to this idea, although in very contrasting styles.

After18 life-sized figure paintingOne young person who seemingly had never held a paintbrush before, was content to slap as much paint on as quickly as and nonchalantly as possible. At the end, however, after a bit of help with the background he was visibly impressed by what he had achieved with his footballer portrait. He painted his name with flourish across the top.

The other young person has spent many hours carefully and intricately painting a “James Bond” style figure in a suit with fine brushes. He decided to set this very western looking gentleman against the backdrop of  his home in the Afghan mountains.

After18 art workshopBoth young people were keen to know where the work would be displayed and were at pains to say that it had to go somewhere a lot of people would see it but that it should be carefully supervised so it wouldn’t get damaged.

The third figure, a man in an Afghan party outfit was a group effort with people taking turns to paint while a group sat around, tea in hand, shouting out instructions and generally enjoying commenting on each other’s efforts. It was decided that this figure was to be placed on a beach, maybe suggesting opportunities for relaxation and fun outside of Afghanistan.

After18 art workshopWhen they weren’t involved in creating the life-sized painting, crayons and pencils were made available to them. The result was a collection of drawings of Afghan flags (minus the “tricky bit in the middle”) plus romantic pictures of flowers, apples and lost loves – although surprisingly for a group of young Afghans there were no poems this time.

As the sessions continue, in a few weeks we will soon be thinking about preparing the young people to adjust to them no longer being part of their routine – fielding questions of “why are we stopping?” – and preparing to exhibit the work.

Who Am I? Artwork exhibition (Oct-Dec)

Tuesday 8 October to Thursday 19 December 2013

Growing Up Strong ceramic After18

At the Fosse Neighbourhood Centre, Mantle Road, Leicester LE3 5HG

This is another chance to see Who Am I?, an exhibition of artwork created by unaccompanied young people, and now extended until 19 December 2013.

Their work includes paintings and clay sculptures created over a series of sessions during the summer of 2013 by young Afghans who are living in Leicester. The activities were run as a partnership between local artist Beate Dehnen and After18.

More background about the process of creating the artwork can be found on our blog post, Snakes and Sculptures.

Who Am I? Artwork exhibition

Saturday 14 to Thursday 19 September 2013

Growing Up Strong ceramic After18

At the Quaker Meeting House, Queens Road, Leicester LE2 1WP

Who Am I? is an exhibition of artwork created by unaccompanied young people.

Their work includes paintings and clay sculptures created over a series of sessions during the summer of 2013 by young Afghans who are living in Leicester. The activities were run as a partnership between local artist Beate Dehnen and After18.

More background about the process of creating the artwork can be found on our blog post, Snakes and Sculptures.

Click here for a map

Snakes and Sculptures – our summer art activities for young people

After18 summer 2013 art activityWhen our young people were recently interviewed for some research on their adjustment to life in the UK, one of the things they mentioned was the difference in clothing between the UK and Afghanistan. From the bewilderment of seeing women in the street with their heads uncovered for the first time to discovering what styles of western clothes they like, there is a lot to learn.

With that in mind we decided to make their relationship with clothes the focus of After18’s summer 2013 ‘drop in’ style art activities.

Our first challenge was to assemble the young people in an unfamiliar room to try something new. Despite having enjoyed previous artwork sessions and having expressed interest in coming, something new and outside the scope of their usual routine is something they approach casually.

After18 summer 2013 art activityAfter some persuasion, young people ‘chillin’ in the vicinity were enticed in by the promise of Afghan green tea and biscuits.

Despite an initial chorus of “I can’t do that,” the Afghan green tea was mostly left to go cold as they became engrossed  in modelling clay figures of themselves.

Usually our contact with the young people is prompted by some crisis (letters not understood or money not received) and consists of a flurry of explanations, phone calls and problem solving. So for the After18 staff this was also a quality experience, to be able to sit and chat to the young people about themselves as we modelled side by side. We learned many things.

After18 summer 2013 art activity For example we were thrilled to discover that one of the young men used to train snakes “to go up and down” for a snake charmer. We received instructions from the group on what to do in the event of being chased by a snake on a mountain and had to field questions about the level of danger posed  by snakes in the UK.

After18 summer 2013 art activity

“In England I am small person”

The most striking aspect of the finished models though was their size. While some models showed strength and hope for the future, several models depicted the young person feeling small.

The sculptures or images of the sculptures will be on display periodically around Leicester, keep an eye on our Events page and Twitter feed for details.