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Abstraction Short Course

University of the Arts London
Program overview
10 weeks
Summer / Short course

Start dates
10 January 2023

18 April 2023
University of the Arts London

About this program

Abstraction Short Course

The journey from representation to abstraction is concerned with bridging the world of appearances and your inner world of memory, feeling and imagination. To abstract is to liberate. In this course, we will open up the possibilities of drawing, paint manipulation, colour and collage, forging your own language within the context of abstraction.

We will refer to contemporary and historical examples throughout the course.

This course is in three parts - term by term. You can do them separately, in sequence or in any order.

To provide you initially with something concrete to look at and respond to, you will each make a still life type of set up inside a cardboard box a personal model for pictorial space. This personal space/place will provide you with a stimulus to work from, an initial springboard for your perceptual and expressive responses. (See materials list)

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Program content

Part Drawing Materials (Autumn)

Autumn Term (Sept to December) is based on all sorts of experimenting with drawing materials, designed to springboard that move from looking and responding into creating your own expressive language, releasing personal connections between looking, feeling, thinking and making. We will ask what “representation” might mean within the context of abstraction and contemporary practice.

We will examine the expressive power of line, tone, texture, touch, movement and space, using collage, black and white paint and any other mixed media materials you might like to introduce. Each day will explore a different kind of stimulus and invention with these materials, bringing alive the visual, the sensual, the imagined and felt.

In Part 1 we will refer to extensive examples in the development of Modernist abstraction starting from the first Cubist collages at the beginning of the 20th century to American Abstract Expressionism and beyond.

PART Colour (Spring)

Spring Term (January to March) is all about the thrill of colour - colour as a dynamic physical, psychological and expressive power. We will focus on the behaviour of colour, how to use it to its full potential and control it. We will understand harmony, contrast, colour interaction, what saturation and tonal value of colour can do and see how understanding these aspects of colour can help you control its function and increase its expressive power.

We will explore how the role of colour after Matisse (and onwards) is freed up and intensified- no longer illustrating things seen, but creating space and light and feeling itself: colour becomes the experience, no longer a description of it. We will work with the pure, physical force of colour and with abstract colour space, also experimenting with paint handling and material invention. By the time you’ve done this course you will be able to sort out colour that’s “gone wrong” in your paintings and control and maximise its emotional range.

Part 3 Abstraction in Context (Summer)

Summer Term (April to June) focuses on building a contemporary, imaginative abstract language through colour, abstract colour space, subject matter, inventive techniques and handling of paint.

Referring widely to the historical and contemporary context of painting we will set about freeing up your relationship with looking and ideas about what “representation” and “abstraction” might mean.

We explore different kinds of pictorial space; examining issues of ambiguity, flatness, illusion and multiplicity. We look at imagery within abstraction, appropriation, and pluralistic styles, strategies and languages. We work with re-inventing qualities of surface, texture, sensation, movement, transparency, layering, pattern and touch aiming to “trap” through materials, processes and ideas, the physical and emotional experiences of your lives.


Tuition Fee: £820

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About this institute

University of the Arts London

University of the Arts London (UAL) is ranked 2nd in the world for Art and Design according to the 2022 QS World University Rankings®, for the fourth year in a row. It has an international reputation in art, design, communication,...

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Why study at University of the Arts London

With multiple sites across London, UAL offers endless opportunities to draw inspiration from this global creative hub.

  • UAL has a track record for launching and furthering careers across the creative industries and beyond.
  • Graduates are frequently shortlisted for national and global awards ranging from the Turner Prize to the Oscars.
  • UAL is home to more than 2,400 postgraduate students.
  • The university offers a wide range of theoretical and practice-based research programmes leading to a PhD or MPhil.
  • UAL is ranked among the UK’s top research universities, with 83% of research conducted by UAL students and staff graded as world-leading.
  • UAL has a diverse student community, with students drawn from over 130 countries across the globe.
  • Students are encouraged to draw inspiration from London’s world-famous art galleries, museums and theatres.
  • UAL’s dedicated support service offers useful advice for international students including guidance on funding, visa applications and accommodation.

Contact info

University of the Arts London

272 High Holborn
WC1V 7EY London
United Kingdom

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