Visual literacy of young neglected, says art expert

YOUNG PEOPLE’S visual literacy is being neglected as Government policy prioritises science and maths above art, according to …

YOUNG PEOPLE’S visual literacy is being neglected as Government policy prioritises science and maths above art, according to the director of the National College of Art and Design.

Prof Declan McGonagle was speaking at the announcement yesterday of the winners of this year’s Texaco children’s art competition. He is chairman of the competition’s judging panel.

“If you think of how the visual is the first sense we develop and how that is nurtured, but then it is almost ignored once children go to school, in favour of numeracy and literacy.

“These are important, but our visual literacy is a hugely important dimension of ourselves, of how we interpret the world, how we think of ourselves – it’s how we dress, how we interact with our environment, it’s central to our psychological wellbeing.”


People who were visually literate, he said, were better citizens. “They are people who think outside the box, who don’t accept the given, who think of new ways of doing things – and God knows we need people with new ways of doing things.”

In all, 21 young artists won prizes of €200-€2,000 for their pieces, from a total of 30,000 entries.

“It would be easy to say the quality of entries is improving, but it is true that the skill and competence among especially the older entrants is really quite impressive,” said Prof McGonagle. Younger entrants displayed “very fresh ideas, exploration”, and, as the entrants get older, “the level of skill they have honed and sharpened is very high”.

Overall winner was Aleksandra Fudali (18), originally from Poland and for the past six years a student at St Brogan’s College in Bandon, west Cork.

Her self-portrait, in pencil, My Future is yet to be Written, shows her peering through a tear, apparently in the paper on which the picture is drawn. She was described yesterday as “one of Ireland’s most technically talented young artists”. Art had been part of her life “since I can remember”. Though she enjoyed art at school in Cracow, “it was only when I moved here with my family that it intensified in me,” she said. “I hope to study psychology in UCC, but art is something that gives me peace of mind. I can isolate myself from the rest of the world and focus totally on something that I love. It’s like meditating.”

Feargal Quinn (8), of Scoil Mhuire gan Smál, Termonfeckin, Co Louth, won second prize in his age category, for a collage titled A Meadow. The green woollen background is topped with woollen representations of a daffodil, a crocus, a rose and other flowers. Asked how he felt when mum Bláthnaid told him he had won, he replied: “I was happy.”


16 to 18 years

1 Aleksandra Fudali, Bandon, Co Cork

2 Ally Nolan, Carlow

3 Siobhán McBrearty, Stranorlar, Co Donegal

14 to 15

1 Shania McDonagh, Claremorris, Co Mayo

2 Frances Treanor, Monaghan

3 Enya King, Kilkeel, Co Down.

12 to 13

1 Eimear McMahon, Drogheda, Co Louth

2 Holly Duce, Kilmallock, Co Limerick

3 Maria Canavan, Dungannon, Co Tyrone

9 to 11 years

1 Alex Jones, Rush, Co Dublin

2 Louie O’Carroll, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

3 Julia Jurczyk, Co Kildare

7 to 8

1 Helen MacRandal, Belfast

2 Feargal Quinn, Termonfeckin, Co Louth

3 Alan Sweeney, Athlone, Co Westmeath

6 years and under

1 Noah Bates, Kilmore, Co Wexford

2 Ruth Woods, Dublin

3 Mia Browne, Dublin

Special needs

1 Deirdre Manny, Rochfortbridge, Co Westmeath

2 Jessica McCartney, Dundalk, Co Louth

3 Art Oakes, Bray, Co Wicklow

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times