Ewa Wojtyniak-Dębińska
Ewa Wojtyniak-Dębińska

Perception of contemporary art works in art education

Ewa Wojtyniak-Dębińska

Článek s názvem “Vnímání současného umění v uměleckém vzdělávání” představuje výsledky výzkumného projektu uskutečněného na Fakultě vizuálního umění Strzeminského Akademie umění v Lodži pod vedením členů Polského výboru InSEA. Výzkum na téma výtvarná výchova a její role v přípravě na vnímání aktuálních uměleckých projevů byl prezentován na Světovém kongresu InSEA 2017 v Daegu v Jižní Koreji a nyní mají možnost seznámit se s jeho výsledky take čeští čtenáři. K důležitým poznatkům patří např. to, že recepci současného umění lze zintenzivnit prezentací poznatků o uměleckém díle a jeho tvůrci, účelným vyvoláním emoční reakce, tvůrčí verbální a uměleckou aktivací, rozšiřováním vnímání prostřednictvím navazující tvorby nebo využitím nových médií na různých úrovních práce s dětmi.


Key words: child in the world of art, art education and the reception of art, perception of contemporary art, new media in art

Czech abstract below


Contemporary art and its reception

Changes in the aesthetic paradigm are more and more visible in current art, including Polish art. Artists do not limit themselves to creating works with high aesthetic values in which beauty is the dominant feature, intended for contemplation. Artistic craftsmanship is replaced by an act of choosing from widely perceived objects. It has become attractive to shock, to break down indifference, as well as deal with previously taboo subjects and to use many media. Public and meta-artistic reflection is encouraged, as well as engaging the viewer in the creation of the art work on many levels (Dziemidok 2009, p. 159). Therefore, the reception and creation of contemporary art requires preparation and an active interest in many aspects of culture, especially in the case of the youngest generation.

, , Perception of contemporary art works in art education 192
, , Perception of contemporary art works in art education 192
, , Perception of contemporary art works in art education 192

Fig. 1–3 Exco buildings, the InSEA World Congress, 2017, Daegu, South Korea. The official opening of the InSEA World Congress, 2017, Daegu, South Korea. A lecture by PhD Beata Marcinkowska and Professor Ewa Wojtyniak-Dębińska. Photo credits: author's archive.


InSEA World Congress 2017

The issue of the role of art education in preparing children for the reception of contemporary art was the main topic of the presentation of Polish artists and academics from the Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź, during the InSEA World Congress 2017 in Daegu, South Korea (see Illustration 1–3). This paper was prepared on the basis of the research work at the Faculty of Visual Arts entitled ART EDUCATION AND ITS ROLE IN PREPARING FOR RECEPTION OF THE CURRENT ART. A child in the world of art of lecturers and students of the Faculty of Visual Arts at the Strzemiński Academy of Art (see Illustration 4).

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Fig. 4 The Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź. Photo credits: author's archive.


Research work at the Faculty of Visual Arts

The project was developed by three lecturers from the faculty of Visual Arts: PhD Beata Marcinkowska (a project manager and secretary of the Polish Committee of the International Society for Education through Art InSEA), PhD Maciej Bohdanowicz and Professor Ewa Wojtyniak-Dębińska (a member of the Polish Committee of the International Society for Education through Art InSEA).

The project involved artists: lecturers and graduates of the Strzeminski Adademy of Art and children aged 8–12. The project was based of a series of workshops carried out both in the academy and in primary schools, workshops had the same structure and included a theoretical introduction, a practical part, recordings of children’s statements about their own work, and a screening of video with artists’ comments.

Workshops with children

At the beginning of each meeting, children had the opportunity to see the works by artists in digital form. The use of a multimedia projector allowed projection of clear images on the big screen (see Illustration 5). Next, participants of the workshops were provided with a direct contact with each realization of pedagogues.

The presented works had a diverse formal natures, related to a different subject matters and usage of various media. Children were shown diverse artworks, including drawings on paper using mainly the line as an artistic medium, works based on photography, spatial installations using ceramic elements and forms made of fabrics, as well as a video and an object using animation (see Illustration 6). Some of the artworks combined traditional artistic techniques with the latest technological developments. The issues examined during the workshops concerned such concepts and problems as truth and imagination, science and play, light and dark, everyday and artistic objects, beauty and ugliness.

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Fig. 5–6 During the workshops at the Faculty of Visual Arts at the Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź, the children had the opportunity to see the artworks on a big screen. PHD Dominika Sadowska’s animated object (2016) entitled Tafla. Photo credits: author's archive.


The lecturers asked questions which allowed determining the current level of knowledge and the ability to receive artworks among the participants of the project. During all the meetings the lecturers initiated discussions aimed, among others, at developing perceptual abilities among children. At the same time, the conversation enabled the lecturers to get acquainted with the views and sensitivity of the young generation.

The following stage was practical. Children, using various tools and materials created their own works which referred in form or content to the presented artworks. Various kinds of works were created. Most of them were closely related to the professional artists’ works, in terms of composition, forms of expression and materials or in the range of discussed issues. Other works seemed not to be related to the presented works; however, they constituted a kind of continuation of the way of thinking presented in discussed artworks (see Illustration 7).

After finishing the practical part, children talked about their own works. The video recordings presenting the speeches of individual participants of the project proved children’s sensitivity, willingness to cooperate, engagement, and original creative possibilities.

The final stage of the workshop was the presentation of short videos showing individual artists taking part in the project. Each of them recorded a commentary in which he/she explained the assumptions of his/her art work (see Illustration 8). In a some cases, children could also meet the artists and ask them questions.

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Fig. 7–8 Children's artworks referred to the professional artworks to a different extent. Presentation of the film with the commentary of PhD Dominika Sadowska. Photo credits: author's archive.


The basic goals of the project

The aim of the project was primarily to examine the pedagogical foundation for perception of current art among children and youths in Poland on the basis of a representative group from the region of Łódź. Assuming that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and especially the closest to Poland, have common roots, history and struggle with similar educational problems, the results of research may have value beyond the borders of Poland: we conceived the final effect of the experiment’s results would be to develop ways to improve reception of contemporary artworks, including intensification of the creative, intellectual, emotional, and artistic activities of the young generation.

- deepening knowledge about art works, their creators and contemporary art

Leonardo da Vinci believed that great love can only be born on the basis of knowledge about a beloved subject, therefore, according to the authors of this project, the perceptual and artistic education of youths and children should not be deprived of specific information about art, its development, about artists and the creative principles, which had a direct impact on the creation of selected art works.

Polish philosopher and art historian Mieczysław Wallis in the book Przeżycie i wartość. Pisma z estetyki i nauki o sztuce 1931–1949 (Experience and value. Letters on aesthetics and art science 1931–1949) emphasized the significant role of understanding the artists’ aspirations in particular epochs and historical periods. Wallis states that it is important to correctly read the intentions of the artist, who incorporates the code needed for the proper reception of his/her art within the semantics of his/her works. Incorrect understanding of the artist’s intentions may lead to false judgments, inadequate perception of the work, ineffective aesthetic experience, or a negative aesthetic evaluation (Wallis 1968, p. 59–70).

Taking this concept into account, the authors of the research work screened the previously mentioned videos with the artists’ statements about the presented works during each workshop (see Illustration 9). These materials were shown at the end of the meetings, because the project authors wanted the children to have the opportunity to unleash their individual creative tendencies and also to learn about the intentions of the artists. Taking into account the susceptibility of the young people’s psyche to suggestion, the project authors tried to prevent uncritical coping the presented works, i.e. limiting children's works to imitative activities.

Familiarizing with artistic conceptions also took place during meetings with the artists, when children had the opportunity to directly ask questions to the artworks’ creators (see Illustration 10).

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Fig. 9–10 Presentation of the film with the commentary of PhD Beata Marcinkowska. PhD Beata Marcinkowska and participants of the workshop. Photo credits: author's archive.


An important goal of the project was also to familiarize young people with the current art that originates in their own environment, and at the same time to promote the artistic creativity of the staff of the Faculty of Visual Arts. The creative activities of artists associated with the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź are representative for contemporary art. They often combine considerations related to traditional avant-garde ideas (e.g. Katarzyna Kobro or Władysław Strzemiński) with postmodernist reflections referring to previous cultural content and forms.

- the use of new media in education through art

Another feature of the works created in the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź is current in contemporary artistic trends the use of many media, including digital media. This specific property, according to the authors of this project, is extremely important in shaping the aesthetic development of the next generations.

As the artist and theoretician Lev Manovich wrote in The Language of New Media, computerization of culture leads to the emergence of new cultural forms that affect the entire visual culture of societies (Manovich 2006). The language of art based on digital media, due to the scale of changes resulting from the possibilities offered by new technological developments, plays a special role in education through art. The newer generations more and more taking part in cyberculture; consequently works using digital media can have a significant impact on their views and development.

For this reason, new media was utilized at many stages of the research project. First, artists invited to cooperate used digital media to create their art works. Second, the first participants’ contact with selected art works was possible thanks to the use of computers. Third, the artists’ statements were digitally recorded, and then presented on a large screen, with the image being displayed via a multimedia projector. Fourth, the authors of the project, using photography and digital film, recorded the subsequent stages of participants’ works. The final stage was digital recording of children’s explanations of their works inspired by the artists’ works.

- evoking emotional reflection

During the preparation of the project, its authors assumed that an important role in shaping the creative attitude, especially among the youngest participants, would be their emotions and direct contact with both the artwork and its author.

The American artist, critic and curator Robert C. Morgan in his text, The Artist and Globalization emphasized that in our contemporary pictorial culture our perception of works of art is changing, which may negatively affect their meaning and interpretation. He writes: „There are interesting differences between how we read Giotto's frescoes on the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel, and how we read them on a computer screen.” (Morgan 2008, p. 37). He is referring to the subtle differences in the emotional reception of works that then influence the overall impact of the artwork. We may talk about material, sensual and virtual perception here. Virtual perception is devoid of the spatiotemporal context. A reproduction, including (or perhaps, especially) one in cyberspace, can present only a fragment of the artwork, shown in isolation from the rest of the whole, usually without revealing the real spatial relations including, for example, the distance of the work from the observer or the viewer’s perspective. Artworks displayed on a screen cannot be touched and are deprived of the direct multi-sensory relationship with the viewer. All these aspects affect the emotional reception of the artwork and consequently lead to incomplete reception of the artwork.

In order to verify the earlier assumptions, the authors of the research work provided the workshop participants with both virtual and material contact with the artworks. In the case of the indirect presence of artworks, children did not respond as spontaneously as when they came into direct contact with the artists’ works. Attracting their attention was required, including the use of questions. Difficulties in receiving the appropriate scale of presented work and correct reading of the composition as a whole were also observed. It turned out that interest in the works increased significantly when the children had the possibility of almost tactile contact with the artworks (see Illustration 11). This observation was valid for both works combining spatial realizations with digital solutions as well as sculptural and photographic forms.

In the case of contact with the authors of the work, it was noted that the presentation of videos with the artists’ statements and the physical presence of the artists had a different but beneficial effect on the children’s increase of interest in the art and everything related to it. The presentation of films on the big screen made it possible to create a situation of co-presence of the artists, but without an intimidating effect. Children looked very closely at the artists’ surroundings and asked questions even about their private lives. They approached the screen and observed closely, for example, the books appearing on the shelf behind the artist. They were also interested in the artists’ age, appearance, and clothing.

However, seeing the artists face to face, children, in addition to previous discussions about the artworks, had many questions for them: about their intentions, inspirations, reasons for the creation of a particular artwork, etc. There was also an opportunity to present works made by the workshop participants to the artists. In many cases, professional artists were interested in children’s imaginative works, which presented unpredictable directions, broadening the given subject, and even formal solutions.

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Fig. 11–12 PhD Beata Marcinkowska's work entitled City of Łódź – City of Women. Three conceptual works by a graduate of the Strzemiński Academy of Art – Maria Korczak-Indzińska entitled: Supersymmetry, Dark Matter and Pluton. Photo credits: author's archive.


- creative stimulation in the verbal and artistic process and the extension of perception through co-creation

An important goal of the project was to explore the possibilities of stimulation of children’s creativity through the use of both verbal and visual means of artistic expression. In this case, verbal stimulation took place at the beginning of each meeting, when the authors of the research work tried to arouse interest in the works, asking the children appropriate questions. Then indirect (digital) and direct contact with the artworks was to ensure the greatest possible stimulation of all the senses and confronting these two ways of presenting works (see Illustration 12).

Children while constructing their own artworks based on the work of professional artists could intensify their own interpretative and creative talents in both the intellectual, emotional and visual spheres. Children, inspired by the presented works, were involved in the creation of compositions that often concerned issues especially close to them (see Illustration 13). These types of activities can be treated as an extended form of perception of the artwork, where the viewer actively participates in the reception and broadens the scope of its impact in the form of a newly created work, inspired by the form or content of the initial work. On one hand, it is necessary to understand the original work and then to carry out the  responding work under its influence, its extension. On the basis of the response works, various relationships could be observed between artists’ and children’ works. Some of them referred to the form or meanings used in the artists’ work, while others could only be associated with them in a distant way. As a result, an open work (in the sense elaborated upon by Umberto Eco) was created, perceived as a model referencing the original work and the group of recipients interpreting this work. In the case of the discussed project, there was a special, "material" interpretation of the work, which at the same time contributed to the stimulation of workshop participants through co-creation (see Illustration 14).

An additional factor complementing the dynamic broadly understood children’s creativity was to make young artists describe the works created during the workshops. While presenting their own work, children talked about their creative process, including meanings, forms and relation to the artists’ works. Filming these comments emphasized the importance of the workshop participants’ activities (see Illustration 15).

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Fig. 13–15 Children's artworks, despite visual or contextual connections with the artists' works, often referred to the personal experiences and  interpersonal relations. The artworks made by the children had an individual and original character, despite the inspiration of professional  artworks. Children's statements about their artworks were filmed during the workshops. Photo credits: author's archive.


Research conclusions

We believe the preparation for reception of contemporary art for the surveyed children was insufficient. At the beginning of the sessions, difficulties with focusing on the presented works were observed. Children without teacher intervention did not show much activity, nor fully understanding the message of the presented projects. However, the situation quickly changed during the course of the workshop.

The visible impact on the reception of artworks led to a deepening of knowledge about the works and their creators, evoking emotional reflections, creative verbal and artistic stimulation, and widening the perception through co-creation, including the use of new media at many stages of working with children.

Conducting subsequent workshops, the authors of the research work were particularly concerned with creating special conditions and atmosphere and special conditions at the outset of the meeting, in order to concentrate children’s attention on the artwork. This is especially important in the case of children, because contemporary works may initially seem strange, too abstract and difficult to understand. Therefore, questions asked while observing the artwork and its digital image were extremely helpful.

The place where the workshops took place was equally important. During the meetings that took place at the university, the children’s interest in the interior of the studio filled with student works was noticed (see Illustration 16). During the workshops conducted in their own school, the participants of the workshops were focused on the task from the very beginning, but they did not feel the aura of the Academy of Fine Art, which in some way could influence the perception of works and make them more meaningful. According to the authors of the project, the place of presentation of works can have a significant impact – not only on adequate perception of artworks, but also on a general interest in art.

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Fig. 16 Composition Studio at the Faculty of Visual Arts at the Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź, where some workshops were conducted. Photo credits: author's archive.



Postmodern tendencies, in which there is no one objective truth and general rules and orders are not obligatory, are characteristic of contemporary culture and can be found in many works of artists from the Academy of Fine Art in Łódź. However, the authors of this research would like to emphasize that in education through art, rules and theories should be developed to promote principles such as child welfare and its sustainable development.

Taking into account changes in the art paradigm, its conceptual and performative tendencies, it is important to provide relevant comment to the artworks presented to children. They can be written texts, artists’ statements, films or presentations, although it must be emphasized that for the current generations, new media is the most desirable and understandable form of communication.

It is also important for the teacher to summarize the discussed creative activities in an appropriate way. This puts requirement on the lecturers and the adequate knowledge of current art. In current educational circumstances, this is not always possible, so this important role could be shifted to meetings and workshops in museums, academies, and art galleries, where curators, educators and artists could introduce both children and their teachers to the world of the current art.

The problem of a lack of pedagogical background of the artists can be solved by the presence of qualified teachers-educators; however the subject area should be agreed before the classes with artists, curators and teachers. Artists could give appropriate tips concerning reception of works, and also provoke some questions.

The dialogue of children with the artists, based not only on verbalizing certain issues, but also on the possibilities of artistic creation, enables the participants of the workshops to learn about the current art. At the same time, such verbal and visual communication allows educators and art teachers to discover the thoughts, emotions and problems affecting the youngest generations. This knowledge can help draw conclusions and ensure the proper artistic, intellectual and emotional development of children and youth.



DZIEMIDOK, Bohdan. 2009. Główne kontrowersje estetyki współczesnej (Main controversies of contemporary aesthetics). Warsaw: PWN. ISBN 978-83-011-3904-9.

MANOVICH, Lev. 2006. Język nowych mediów (The Language of New Media). Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Akademickie i Profesjonalne. ISBN 978-83-605-0102-3.

MORGAN, Robert C. 2008. Artysta i globalizacja (The artist and globalization). Łódź: Miejska Galeria Sztuki w Łodzi & Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź.

WALLIS, Mieczysław. 1968. Przeżycie i wartość. Pisma z estetyki i nauki o sztuce 1931–1949 (Experience and value. Texts on aesthetics and theory of art 1931–1949). Cracow: Wydawnictwo Lite.


Vnímání současného umění v uměleckém vzdělávání – výzkumný projekt Fakultě vizuálního umění Strzeminského Akademie umění v Lodži pod vedením členů Polského výboru InSEA

Klíčová slova: dítě ve světě umění, výtvarná výchova a vnímání umění, percepce současného umění, nová média v umění

Anotace: Problém role uměleckého vzdělávání při přípravě na recepci současného umění byla hlavním tématem prezentace polských umělců a akademiků Strzeminského Akademie umění v Lodži během Světového kongresu InSEA 2017 v Daegu v Jižní Koreji. Příspěvek byl zpracován na základě výzkumu na vizuálního umění s názvem “Výtvarná výchova a její role v přípravě na recepci aktuálních uměleckých projevů. Dítě ve světě umění přednášejících a studentů Fakulty výtvarného umění na Strzeminského Akademii umění v Lodži”.

Projekt byl řešen třemi přednášejícími ze zmíněné fakulty: dr. Beatou Marcinkowskou (projektovou manažerkou a tajemnicí Polského výboru Mezinárodní společnosti pro výchovu uměním | InSEA), dr. Maciejem Bohdanowiczem a profesorkou Ewou Wojtyniak-Dębińskou (členkou Polského výboru Mezinárodní společnosti pro výchovu uměním | InSEA). Projekt zahrnoval umělce: přednášející a absolventy Fakulty vizuálního umění Strzeminského Akademie umění v Lodži a děti ve věku 8–12 let. Podstatou projektu byla realizace cyklu workshopů, jež se konaly na akademii a na základních školách. Workshopy měly stejnou strukturu, jež vždy zahrnovala teoretický úvod, praktickou část, nahrávky dětských reflektivních úvah o vlastní práci a promítání videa s komentáři umělců.

Cyklus dílen se mimo jiné zaměřil na to, aby se účastníci dostali do přímého kontaktu s nejnovějším multimediálním uměním vytvořeným v jejich nejbližším okolí, a na prohloubení znalostí o současných možnostech recepce umění dětmi. Snahou bylo rovněž vytvoření prostoru pro reflexi témat řešených současnými umělci a pro aktivizaci tvořivosti dětí tvorbou děl inspirovaných prezentovanými uměleckými díly, stejně jako pro nalezení konkrétních řešení umožňujících komplexní recepci současných uměleckých děl.

Na základě teoretických konceptů a chování pozorovaného v průběhu workshopů byla věnována pozornost významu intelektuálních i emočních prvků v procesu recepce umění. V této souvislosti je zvláště důležitá povaha kontaktu dítěte s uměleckým dílem: je rozdíl, pokud je dílo viditelné pouze na obrazovce, pokud je lze vidět přímo, nebo pokud je možné dotýkat se jej, nebo jej dokonce tvarovat. Výzkum se zaměřil také problematiku kontaktu dětí s tvůrcem díla – z hlediska jeho typu a jeho validity. Promítání komentářů umělce na konci každého workshopu – a v několika případech i možnost přímého setkání se tvůrcem – vyvolalo reakci účastníků, což umožnilo řešitelům formulovat konkrétní výzkumné závěry. Mezi nejdůležitější patří poznatek, že recepce současného umění v reprezentativní skupině se zintenzivnila rozšířením poznatků o uměleckých dílech a jejich tvůrcích, intencionálním vyvoláváním emoční reakce, tvůrčí verbální a uměleckou aktivizací, stejně jako rozšiřováním vnímání prostřednictvím společné tvorby a využívání nových médií na různých úrovních práce s dětmi.



Ewa Wojtyniak-Dębińska

Faculty of Visual Arts at the Strzeminski Academy of Art in Lodz


The paper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.



Jak citovat tento článek:
WOJTYNIAK-DĘBIŃSKA, Ewa. 2018. Perception of contemporary art works in art education. Kultura, umění a výchova, 6(2) [cit. 2018-11-30]. ISSN 2336-1824. Dostupné z: http://www.kuv.upol.cz/index.php?seo_url=aktualni-cislo&casopis=16&clanek=192.
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