Leaving Cert Art candidates were treated to a lot of big hitters on their very well-received 2021 papers – including Henry Shefflin for higher level students.
A full question, based on a Gerry Davis painting of the Kilkenny hurling icon, invited students to discuss how portraits can be used to show power, virtue, beauty, wealth, character, learning or other qualities of the sitter.
Gerard Lane, an Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative, said the question, in the Irish Art section, would catch the eye of students and “I would imagine it would have gone down well with any sporting fan.”
Clodagh O’Hara, a Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject representative, was “thrilled” with the question. “It really focused on a student who isn’t oriented towards the ancient stuff. It was a connection to society today.”
Teachers were very warm in their praise for the papers at both levels.
Declan Kelly of the Institute of Education, Dublin, said of the higher level exam: “You get the sense that whoever wrote the paper was very aware of the challenges that Covid has presented to students and made the questions as fair and generous as possible.”
He said a lot of the core topics were covered and students still had to put the work and effort in. “Teachers should be happy and students will be delighted,” he said.
This year, students had to do two questions from three sections, rather than three questions, but Ms O’Hara, who teaches at St Patrick’s Comprehensive, Shannon, Co Clare said the questions themselves were no easier than usual.
“The standard was definitely in line with previous years, but with such a wide choice, if they had put the work in, they are home and dry.”
In the Irish Art section at higher level, Mr Lane, of Presentation College, Athenry, Co Galway said there were “lovely questions” including one on Stone Age monuments, another that combined Bronze Age and Iron Age artefacts, another on the Tara Brooch, one on Castletown House, the Custom House and The Casino, Marino and another on Willian John Leech’s Convent Garden painting.
Mr Kelly described a number of the Irish Art questions as “fantastic” and thought students would have picked from the first four. That did not include the Henry Shefflin option. Mr Kelly said it was “lovely to see Alice Maher, one of our greatest contemporary artists, appear in question 7.
Speaking about European Art, Ms O’Hara said the “great choice included one of the ‘big hitters’, Raphael, while ordinary level candidates had Leonardo Da Vinci.
Mr Kelly said at higher level in this section, “they really gave us a bit of everything, from Romanesque to the Renaissance, to Renoir, Giotto and more.”
He also noted that Piet Mondrian featured in Q13. “It was lovely to see him appear on the paper after his recent exhibition in the National Gallery,” he said.
He said that normally students can “start to panic” when they get to the final section, Appreciation of Art, “ however that pressure was gone this year. “
Mr Lane thought Q18 in this section would have been “very popular”. It was about how the artwork of the comic book or graphic novel can be effectively adapted using film‐making techniques and technology to represent characters and universes on screen.