Each year, the National Gallery runs a competition for young art students called ‘ARTiculation,’ in which Sixth Form pupils choose a painting which they find particularly meaningful and give a presentation about it. The Bloxham School heats of this competition took place last week, and we sat down to chat with Tom, the winning entrant, who will be moving forward to the next round, and who will be speaking about ‘La Vie’ by Marc Chagall.

What first attracted you to the work of Chagall?

Last summer, my friend and I visited France with my family, and since we both love art and study it together here at School, we decided to visit a gallery. There were lots of wonderful paintings to see, so, to begin with, I didn’t notice ‘La Vie.’ It was only when I realised my friend had been looking at it for a long time that I properly looked at it too. When we were asked to do the ARTiculate presentations, that moment came straight back into my mind and I decided that ‘La Vie’ was the painting I wanted to find out more about. Her appreciation of Chagall’s work made me realise that perhaps there was more to it than I had noticed at first glance, and more which I could explore and discover.

What do you love about this particular painting?

I love that there is so much going on in it. This one image contains lots of different scenes from the life of Chagall, so there are a lot of relatable moments in there and that’s what I really connect with. Because it’s all about life, there’s always some kind of relatability there. Personally, I find the bits with the music and the dancing the most relatable because I love to dance!

Has Chagall’s work inspired your own creations? If so, in what way?

It has a little bit, in the sense of making me want to explore themes such as relatability and key moments in life. This year, we’ve been looking at a range of different artists such as William Kentridge and Jeanette Barnes and they’re artists who create still life works. For me, it can be difficult to find the meaning in these, but I look for underlying tones and motifs, moments where an object could look like something else and have another meaning. I’ve done that recently in an etching where we were meant to pick a flower or something to represent how lovely life is, and I went darker, using a picture of a decaying flower. I like the contrast between the beauty of the flower and how it appears to be melting.

What are your plans for after you leave Bloxham?

I’m quite a theatrical person so drama is the avenue I want to go down. I recently entered a script-writing competition and submitted that on Tuesday. I love acting, writing and all things creative, and that’s what I want to continue with after I leave School.

Simon Batten, School Archivist and History Teacher, attended Tom’s talk and was deeply impressed by the way in which he spoke, sharing that:

Tom spoke fluently and with a nice touch of humour about Chagall’s masterpiece La Vie, which he saw at the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in Provence. He vividly described the process of visiting the room for which it was painted for the gallery’s owners by Chagall in 1964. Tom was able to convey his personal engagement with the painting and explained the ways in which it represents many of the overarching themes and motifs of the artist’s oeuvre.

We wish Tom the best of luck in the next round of the competition.