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Develop a critical understanding of art with short courses

  • Written byYusuf Tamanna
  • Published date 10 September 2021

“Contemporary art has become a source of great interest to me over the past 10 years. I have visited many contemporary art galleries across Europe as a major part of my weekend breaks. When I saw that UAL offered a short course on the topic, I jumped at the chance to take it,” Ian Wilkie tells me.

Ian is currently a lecturer at The University of Salford where he teaches Performance and Comedy. Prior to his work in higher education, Ian was an actor for 25 years and with his longstanding background in the arts, Ian says he’s always had an interest in comedy – he has PhD in the subject and edits a journal called ‘Comedy Studies’. But more so, he’s interested in where comedy, performance and art intersect, which is what led him to do the Understanding Contemporary Art Online Short Course with Central Saint Martins.

A photo of Ian Wilkie

Art student Silvana Rosan also decided to undertake one of our curation and culture short courses, opting for the Art, Ethics and Social Change Online Short Course, also offered by Central Saint Martins.

Based in Lima-Perú, Silvana is currently working on her thesis at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Perú. She also works as a restoration assistant and keeps herself occupied having many personal art projects in progress at any one time.

Despite her packed schedule, Silvana took the opportunity to do a short course when all the universities in her hometown were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A photo of Silvana Rosan

“The whole thing was very unfortunate, but I thought that since classes all over the world had to be online it would be a good idea to take some courses at other art schools, like UAL, to see different perspectives or approaches to art.”

During his time on the short course, Ian says what he enjoyed most was the tutor, Theo Carnegy-Tan. Especially as Theo was able to include comedy  as part of the work they did on the course, much to Ian’s delight.

“Theo Carnegy-Tan was excellent. His selection of examples were spot on, and he managed to tailor the course to the participant's responses and interests. For example, Theo brought my interest in comedy into his discussions of the materials and artists we looked at.”

The standard of professionalism is extremely high. I feel I learned a lot and I enjoyed the course enormously!

— Ian Wilkie

Silvana was also impressed with the tutor on her short course and the way she approached the topic of art and social change. “I loved Sara Shamsavari’s idea to have us share a small project or idea of our own related to the course. This was very meaningful because you had the opportunity to receive feedback for a current project or idea, and if not to have one! All in all, it’s about being able to see all these topics discussed in class convey into something personal.”

More so, Silvana thoroughly enjoyed the class discussion around race, cultural representations and othering, especially as she was able to draw on her own references and experiences as a Peruvian and Latin American person.

“It was so enriching to look at the perspectives and studies of these subjects and how artists in the northern hemisphere had seen and represented people and cultures... it is often us who are being represented in some of the artworks. It was very valuable to see how people in the West see us or have seen us through history.” Silvana explains.

A photo of Silvana using a marker pen to create scribbles

A photo of scribbles designed by Silvana Rosan

For Ian, his short course did exactly what it hoped and illustrated how comedy can be included in the work of many contemporary artists as a deliberate artistic decision. “I really enjoyed learning that contemporary artists are interested in exploring the boundaries of making art that does wish for laughter to be one of its outcomes. The gaining of new knowledge - particularly concerning the work of performance artists - was extremely beneficial to me.”

After such a rewarding and fruitful experience on his short course, Ian has already started to put his new critical skills and awareness into practice in his work.

“I am currently planning an interdisciplinary research project with colleagues at the University of Salford that considers synergies and oppositions between comedy and art. What I learned on my short course has really benefitted my thinking about this project and what it might contain.”

I am currently working in my thesis and learning all this [information on my short course] has helped me see the foundations of my work.

— Silvana Rosan

Ian adds that he’d happily encourage others to consider a short course based on his own glowing experience. “The standard of professionalism is extremely high. I feel I learned a lot and I enjoyed the course enormously!”

Likewise, Silvana also plans to put what she learned on her short course into her thesis. She credits the course for helping her address some uncomfortable aspects of the art world in her work and plans to use what she’s learned on the course to support the foundations of her thesis.

A painting done by Silvana Rosan

“This course was particularly valuable because it has helped me see where we are or where I am in the world. I am currently working in my thesis and learning all this has helped me see the foundations of my work and why is important to think about us in the art world so that we can have more tools when we want to speak about whatever we want to speak,” Silvana tells me.

“This course has helped me to be even more careful when discussing problematic subjects and to see how “the other” is the actually “the others” and we are also a group among "the others" which leads into complex relations.”

Much like Ian, Silvana would also strongly encourage others to look at how a short course can improve their practice: “Do it! Since I am from somewhere else in the world, i will speak from my point of view. It is particularly important to always be exposed to different perspectives and approaches to art and to discuss about what is important to you with other people and artists.”

Silvana adds finally: “I absolutely loved the experience.”


Curation and culture is just one of many subjects covered in our short courses. If you’re keen to see how a short course can support your current practice or get you started on an entirely new venture, visit our upcoming short courses information page to see the full range of short courses we are running over the coming months.

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