Sharon Morris, Senior Lecturer, Slade School of Fine Art
Sharon came to the Slade in 1985 to set up an undergraduate programme dedicated to Fine Art Media (photography, film, video, performance and electronic media).
She identified a key problem: the students were unaware of each other’s work and were not used to discussing their work. She introduced a new model of teaching - the group critique seminar - into the BA Fine Art Media course, which has had a significant impact on student performance.
Her passion is the relationship between word and image and she has been keen to ensure at undergraduate, postgraduate and research levels that space is given to the act of creative writing as a mode of making art, paying equal attention to the word as well as the image in works of art that are textually based, and, crucially, encouraging students at different stages of their education to work and think together.
Sharon has been organising multidisciplinary events since 1998, the first of which was an intervention into the dominant modes of teaching at the Slade: this exhibition-and-seminar event with the Dartington Writing Performance course and St Martin’s College of Art led eventually to a large-scale public event entitled TURTLE (2006) at the Slade Research Centre. This was a two-day exhibition of painting, photography, sculpture and electronic media, plus two evenings of live performance by artists, opera singers, choirs, a classical ensemble, poets and a screening of video and films. The intention of the event was to bring together staff and students from all levels of study with international artists, writers and musicians to address the relationship between text and image. Enormously successful, this event had an impact on the kind of teaching that can take place as part of studio culture, incorporating the best of the 'teaching by example' tradition.
Sharon set up the Slade Word and Image Forum in 2009 and then in 2010, aware of the still-untapped potential of UCL's own resources, she organised another text-image event, Off the Shelf, with John Thompson and Michael Duffy. This event included exhibitions of painting, photography, moving image and live performance of image-text artwork and poetry that responded to items from the Small Press Collections at UCL. The main aim was to reveal the importance of the collection and to promote research into these publications, but it also demonstrated different pedagogical frameworks for learning that unite practice and theory, production and reflection, the historical and the contemporary through enactment.