Transnational Slade aims to explore and map the global networks and trajectories of influence of the school’s alumni and staff. A key objective of this project is to enhance and challenge known histories of the Slade and to facilitate research with its rich archival resources.
Transnational Slade Phase II: Slade, London, Asia (2019-2021)
Building on the first phase of research (2013-2014), an international research network which will support the further study, cataloguing, digital publication and mapping of previously under-researched archival resources.
This phase of the project is in collaboration with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, part of the London, Asia research project, and Ming Tiampo, Paul Mellon Centre London, Asia Award Holder and Professor of Art History, Co-director of the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis, and Director of the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture at Carleton University, Ottawa.
Project Lead: Susan Collins, Head of Research, Slade
Archive Curator and Researcher: Liz Bruchet
Slade, London, Asia Steering Committee: Liz Bruchet (Slade School of Fine Art), Susan Collins (Slade School of Fine Art), Elena Crippa (Tate Britain), Helen Downes (Freelance art historian), Andrea Fredericksen (UCL Art Museum), Hammad Nasar (Paul Mellon Centre), Colin Penman (UCL Records Office), Devika Singh (Tate Modern), Ming Tiampo (Carleton University), Sarah Victoria Turner (Paul Mellon Centre)
Transnational Slade Phase I: Mapping the Diaspora of an Art School (2013-2014)
Project Overview, Dr Amna Malik
The first phase of the Transnational Slade: Mapping the Diaspora of an Art School (2013-2014) began exploring the impact of art education by examining who was at the Slade, specifically during the 1950s. This decade is important because it was a pivotal period of change between Britain and its former colonial territories, particularly in the widening of the Commonwealth and the diminishing of the empire. It was an era when modernism began to enter the work of artists who would play a more visible role in the Independence movements of their countries in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps because of the complex social and historical changes that were underway during the 1950s, the art of this decade outside of France, Italy and the US remains under-examined. The presence in London of major artists of modernism created in different parts of the world has not been fully explored, perhaps because of the tendency for art history to be directed by nationalist narratives.
Within British art history we know of familiar movements such as the Bloomsbury Group, the Camden Town Group, the Euston Road School, and after the Second World War the rise of the Independent Group in the 1950s, followed by what was once seen, as British variants on artistic styles, US movements, such as post-painterly abstraction, Pop and land art. We are all aware of the contributions of Moore, Bacon, Sutherland and Hepworth to modernism. In recent years our knowledge of modern and postmodern artists from Britain has widened, including the presence of artists of the African and Asian diaspora, some of them gathered together in Rasheed Araeen’s exhibition The Other Story (1989). The Slade’s position within this history of twentieth century art has tended to arise in the context of Wyndham Lewis and the Vorticists, from 1914 onwards. It is largely examined as a backdrop to the rising stars of figurative painting in the 1950s: Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Lucian Freud and later Euan Uglow.
Transnational Slade, as the name indicates, brings to light the presence in London of artists from numerous parts of the world: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan, India, Bangladesh, China, Thailand, South Africa, Canada, Tanzania, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Guyana and Vietnam, to name only a few. While some of these artists have subsequently become well known – for instance Sam Ntiro, Khalid Iqbal, Ibrahim El-Salahi and Skunder Boghossian – all became central to the development of modernism in their countries. The work of other artists has received less attention and is yet to be recognised. We are interested in finding out more about these artists.
Two case studies were compiled of contrasting artists: Khalid Iqbal is well known in Pakistan as a teacher and pioneer of landscape painting in the realist tradition; we know less about his period of study at the Slade. Ibrahim El-Salahi was the subject of a touring retrospective curated by Professor Salah Hassan that came to London’s Tate Modern in summer 2013. Whilst Iqbal’s engagement with the empirical tradition of British art was fundamental to his subsequent career, for El-Salahi it proved to be a starting point for a different direction. As Sudan and other African countries moved towards independence in the 1960s, his work changed in direction, away from painting from the model towards an abstract language influenced by Arabic calligraphy and African tribal sculpture.
These artists were chosen because they offer contrasting positions in relation to the European canon. Iqbal adapted the empirical realist techniques he learnt at the Slade to depict the outskirts of Lahore in an era of national renewal. His interest in this empirical approach can perhaps be seen as an example of the way modernism adapted and changed in different local contexts. In his case it seems to have been a rejection of the tradition of miniature painting native to Lahore. In this respect, it can also be seen as a rejection of the Mughal styles of art favoured by the British Raj. El-Salahi’s early formation as an artist was in the empirical tradition of drawing and painting from the model, which he continued at the Slade, but radically departed from in subsequent years. Both artists have been highly influential to the development of modernism in their respective countries. They are indicative of the transformative nature of modernism in the twentieth century, as artists responded to local conditions and situations of art making in different parts of the world.
Crowdsourcing the annual Slade class photos
The Slade has a fascinating, but currently incomplete, collection of panoramic annual class photographs dating from 1931. The Transnational Slade project has also drawn on the ‘Crowdsourcing the Slade Class Photos’ project, which asked former staff and students, scholars and members of the public to help us identify the sitters through a website designed by UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.
Through this platform, we have identified a number of individuals who were international students or visitors at the Slade during the 1950s, including: Ibrahim El-Salahi, A.M. El Din Guneid and Baghdadi Bastawi from Sudan, Sam Joseph Ntiro from Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Arthur Albert Adams and Mary Chappe Sutton from South Africa, Yu Tseng, Chien-Ying Chang, C.W. Fei and Deh-ta Hsiung from China, Krishna Gosajeni from Thailand, Sinclair Healy from Canada, Jamila Zafar, Khalid Iqbal, Zainul Abedin and Anwar Shemza from Pakistan, Kamalendu Roy, Ameena Ahmed and Kalpathi Ganapathy Subramanyam from India, Jack Cripper and Desmond Digby and James Robson Cowan, otherwise known as Roy Cowan from New Zealand, Warrington Colescott from the US, Surya Antonius from Jordan, Koesoema Affandi from Indonesia, Batil T. Patwa from Kenya, Menhat Allah Helmy from Egypt, Van-my or Phan-Van-My Phan from Vietnam, Skunder Boghossian from Ethiopia, Kim Lim from Singapore. These findings will inform the next phase of the Transnational Slade project (2019- ).
This project was funded by a UCL Grand Challenges Small Grant (2013-2014)
Project Lead: Dr Amna Malik (UCL Slade School of Fine Art)
Principle collaborator: Professor Melissa Terras (UCL Department of Information Studies) Research Assistant: Liz Bruchet (UCL Slade School of Fine Art)
Research Assistant: Alejandro Giacometti (UCL Centre for Digital Humanities)
For further information about the project, or to access the Slade class photo collection, please contact email@example.com.