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Jim Unsworth - The Open College of the Arts
To find out more details about the transfer to The Open University see A New Chapter for OCA.
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Jim Unsworth

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.

Posted by author: Doug Burton
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17 thoughts on “Jim Unsworth

  • I had the pleasure of being tutored by Jim on my previous module, Mixed Media. He somehow winkled out the very best in me as only a great tutor can do. Thanks again Jim and good luck for the future.

  • I attended two workshops that Jim hosted at his home studio in Lincolnshire. Two of the most inspirational days of tuition I have had and which changed my way of working and thinking about what I was making. A loss to the OCA but I wish him all the best for the future.

  • I first met Jim at Assessment in March 2008. At that time I had been in post for one month and knew that the OCA was going to need to go through a period of change and I was looking for like-minded tutors to inform and support that change. Jim immediately struck me as clear, forward looking and full of ideas and we hit it off immediately. Over the years his impact on the College has been immeasurable. It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Jim from the OCA, but this is tempered by our pleasure at his blossoming personal practice.

  • I had the good fortune as well to be tutored by Jim at and he was always supportive and at the same time challenging which is an essential element of teaching. Thank you Jim and good luck with whatever you do next

  • Assessments won’t be the same without you Jim. All the best to you and your family and thanks for all your support over the years. A lynch pin in the academic improvements of OCA and a hugely knowledgeable educator. X

  • Agreed Emma. Jim has taught me such a lot about assessing and tutoring. His clear-head and forthright style has, I hope, had an impact on the way I go about things.
    All the best Jim and enjoy making the next batch of stuff…

  • What an inspirational tutor Jim was for me on D1. I also had the opportunity to attend a drawing workshop at his house and the memory of us drawing with bamboo sticks in his garden with his greyhound happily bounding around will stay with me forever! All the best Jim, and I hope to meet you again at one of your exhibitions, Catherine x

  • Jim, you opened my eyes (in all senses of the word) and challenged me to do better as only a good tutor can. Thanks and best wishes

  • My favourite Jim quote: “I’m not a conceptual artist. But I have concepts, and I make art.”
    I was lucky enough to see the early development of Jim’s new work in his studio. The pieces are like drawings, insubstantial, tentative and enigmatic, yet they have power and presence and energise the space around them.
    Thank you Jim for your great contribution to the OCA, and all the best for the future.

  • A great tutor who helped me a lot – may thanks Jim and good luck with your future work – how about an OCA study visit to his next exhibition?

  • I was very fortunate to have had Jim as my tutor for painting modules at both level one and level two, with face to face tutorials at his studios. I found his straight talking approach, which combined challenge with strong encouragement was invaluable in helping me to reflect, take risks and progress as an artist. Thank you so much Jim and I look forward to seeing your new work at a forthcoming exhibition!

  • I too was very fortunate to have Jim as my tutor for Exploring Concepts Parts 1-5. Alas he made his decision to stop tutoring before I could finish my Part 6. He understood how to get one to take risks and give of one’s best. A great Tutor indeed. This is a loss for OCA but Jim, I wish you a very creative time ahead and hope to see your work someday soon – or perhaps attend a Summer Workshop for which you hopefully might find time to organize. Good luck and thank you.

  • Good luck Jim !
    What a loss for the OCA , You don’t get tutor like that every day .
    Jim is a tour-de- force , a remarkable artist .
    He immediately understood my aesthetic and concerns , Developed my practice and confidence beyond measure . My work took flight and left the OCA with a 1st .
    I am and will always be eternally grateful to him .
    I am now on the Turps Banana PAINTING Programme with Marcus Harvey

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