This book reviews past practice and theory in critical studies and discusses various trends; some papers keenly advocate a re-conceptualisation of the whole subject area, while others describe aspects of current and past practice which exemplify the "symbiotic" relationship between practical studio work and critical engagement with visual form.
Rod Taylor, who has done much to promote and develop critical studies in the UK, provides us with examples of classroom practice and gives us his more recent thoughts on fundamental issues – "universal themes" in art – and gives examples of how both primary and secondary schools might develop their teaching of art through attending to themes such as "identity," "myth," and "environments" to help "re-animate the practical curriculum."
Although some of the discussion in this book centres on or arises from the English National curriculum, the issues are more global, and relevant to anyone involved in developing or delivering art curricula in schools. An American perspective is given in papers by George Geahigan and Paul Duncum. Geahigan outlines an approach to teaching about visual form which begins with students' personal responses and is developed through structured instruction. In Duncum’s vision of ‘visual culture art education’ sites such as theme parks and shopping malls are the focus of students' critical attention in schools; Nick Stanley gives a lucid account of just such an enterprise, giving practical examples of ways to engage students with this particular form of visual pleasure.
This publication serves to highlight some of the more pressing issues of concern to art and design teachers in two aspects. Firstly it seeks to contextualise the development of critical studies, discussing its place in the general curriculum – possibly as a discrete subject – and secondly it examines different approaches to its teaching.