VISUAL ARTS Grade Award Meetings, Cardiff

December 2011

Visual Arts Grade Award meetings are fascinating, every day filled with a huge variety of Studio work images to look at and Investigation Workbook pages to read.

It’s a busy, challenging but enjoyable experience, and it always throws up interesting questions – about art, assessment issues and the complex visual arts descriptors that everything gets judged by.

One of the issues that caused a lot of discussion over the last few days in Cardiff (and in the end consensus and agreement) revolved around new media and digital art.


We (senior examiners) found ourselves spending time considering the extent to which the digital studio work in different CRBs reflected achievement (or not) in the context of the current descriptors.

Some digital art absolutely fulfilled the descriptors in the highest (17 – 20) HLA markband, and some  CRB pages contained images that showed an excellent understanding of the ideas and techniques that underpin artistic expression, and demonstrated an excellent exploration of ideas reflecting cultural and historical awareness and artistic qualities.

This kind of digital art embodied the accomplished resolution of ideas and medium that receives the highest marks – and these candidates were of course rewarded with high marks.


However, some other examples of digital art were, in contrast, largely vacuous and often appeared to incorporate images that were not the candidate’s own. Technology is a great tool, but by itself – without the understanding that is intrinsic to the visual arts programme – it won’t produce good art.

So, at the other end of the scale, we saw examples of boring, repetitive and unimaginative digital art. Some candidates worked in schools that were blessed with expensive, sophisticated and imaginative technological resources, but often they produced digital art that was weak and insipid. Their imagery did not reflect a thoughtful development of ideas, and sometimes appeared to have been explored because it seemed ‘easier’ than acquiring skill in a more traditional art making process.

We were pleased to see that some teachers did not just assume that ‘digital’ automatically meant that the art would be ‘good’, any more than any other creative process by itself means the art is good.

It is the creative marriage of a technique and/or media with understanding, exploration of ideas and reference to cultural/historical awareness and artistic qualities that leads to good (and sometimes great) IBDP art.

The best digital work was also supported by a thorough and detailed documentation of the process of creation, in the form of A4 copies of selected IWB pages showing how ideas and techniques developed and evolved.

The images are photographs taken in and around a grey and rainy Cardiff December 2011 (not student art!)