This November, students of Art, Photography and Textiles embarked on a memorable trip to London. Pupils had the opportunity to further their creative studies and gain a good dose of inspiration from two of Londons finest venues.

The first stop was in Richmond, west London at the Royal Botanic Gardens, KEW. KEW is London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage site offering unique landscapes and iconic architecture from every stage of the Gardens history. The collection of living plants on show is the largest and most diverse in the world, growing out in the Gardens and inside the several glasshouses.

Pupils had their cameras and sketchbooks at the ready as they walked through the gardens and structures like The Hive, a unique, multi-sensory experience designed to highlight the extraordinary life of bees. A feat of British engineering, this art installation stands 17 metres tall and sits in a wildflower meadow. The autumnal palette on show throughout KEW motivated pupils to think about the colours they could include in their own work and how artists are inspired about the world around them.

Before lunch, students had time to explore the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which boasts plants from ten different climate zones, including cacti, orchids, carnivorous plants and the remarkable Titan arum, which produces one of the largest flowering structures and foulest odours in the plant kingdom! For the staff and pupils who didn’t mind heights, the Treetop Walkway was the perfect way to take in the famous London skyline. 200 metres long and towering 18 metres above the ground, pupils caught a glimpse of the complex ecosystem of the forest canopy, a world teeming with birds, insects, lichens and fungi. 

That afternoon, pupils explored the incredible TATE Modern, the world-famous gallery on the banks of the River Thames. The former Bankside Power Station was selected to be the home for international modern and contemporary art in London, with Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron appointed to convert the building into a gallery.

Students took a keen interest in current exhibition Media Networks, which looks at some of the ways in which artists over the past hundred years have responded to the impact of mass media and the ever-changing technologies that shape our world. Including a diverse range of techniques and materials – from posters and paint to analogue and digital technology – the display raised questions around feminism, consumerism and the cult of celebrity. Pupils marvelled over artworks by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and the Guerrilla Girls to name but a few.

In between taking notes and sketches for their research, students enjoyed the main Tate collection, boasting works from the greats such as Pablo Picasso, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Henri Matisse and Salvador Dali. Immersed in creations old and new, pupils were inspired by the sight of artworks up close and personal. The reaction to Marcel Duchamp’s infamous Fountain was as animated as the audiences who saw it first in 1917, with students and staff asking themselves the age-old questions of: Is It Art? Is It Good? And Who Says So?

With inspiration aplenty, questions to ponder and no doubt tired feet, pupils and staff made their way back to Wales having enjoyed the sights and sounds of London, beautiful KEW gardens and the fascinating TATE Modern.