As some of you may know Jim Unsworth recently made the difficult decision to stop tutoring with the OCA in order to focus his time on his growing arts practice. I thought it might be a good idea to take it upon myself to write a blog post on Jim in order to celebrate his contribution to arts education and give you my perspective of his sculpture and drawings that span nearly 40 years.
I should say that I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity, whether through luck or serendipity, to be taught by Jim, then become his studio assistant and eventually work with Jim at the OCA. Studying for my Degree in Sculpture at Winchester School of Art in 1999 was a bit of a baptism of fire. Jim’s style as Senior lecturer in Sculpture was straight talking but also sympathetic and encouraging, as many of us will recognise from our experiences with him. This balanced the formidable presence of the sculptor Professor John Gibbons, who challenged his students approach to making and thinking about sculpture, which in-turn pushed students to elevate themselves above the norm. During Winchester school of art’s heyday, under the leadership of Jim and John, many successful contemporary sculptors emerged from the school including Richard Woods, Ian Dawson and Darren Almond.
When I left Winchester I was given the opportunity to work for Jim as his technical assistant. This gave me the impetus to get to London, find a studio and develop my own art practice. Working for an artist is hard work but very rewarding. Looking back I can see that it gave me an insight into how different artists think and make decisions. I could also see from Jim’s approach the way that sculpture and drawing were tightly interwoven in his creative process.
Jim’s early work developed out of a school of sculpture that had Sir Anthony Caro at its fore. In particular I remember Jim talking about his sculpture in relation to the process of making and developing the form, shape and characteristic of the sculpture as it emerged. In time Jim broke out of the abstract modernist structure and began to think about the way the figurative could incorporate and define the work. Most recently Jim has been working on sculptures and drawings that consider the towering line within space, emphasising the way that our own sense of scale and relationship to the sculpture can be effected by the work. Look out for Jim this year at Burghley House Sculpture Gardens, where some of these new sculptures will be on show.
Jim worked for the OCA from 2005 tutoring Sculpture, Drawing and Painting. I especially enjoyed working with Jim at assessment events where his keen eye and matter of fact approach to looking at work contributed to many passionate discussions on art. I’m sure Jim’s many students at the OCA will recognise some of what I’ve written about here and will want to wish Jim all the best with his future work and will look forward to catching up with him at one of his exhibitions.