VA6003 - Synthesis

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What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn to develop an increasingly self-directed art practice that is underpinned by evaluative, critical and creative research strategies. The module is therefore focused on developing your independence as a fine artist, through the consolidation of your visual and intellectual skills, and prepares you for the presentation of your Degree Show exhibition at the end of the year. A sense of a practice-led, studio-centred enquiry is fundamental to the module’s overarching philosophy and content. Synthesis is a year-long 80 credit-module that provides you with the opportunity to holistically develop an individual, contemporary art practice that is critically positioned and that meets professional standards of production.

To this end, the module is designed to help you shape and synthesise your own ‘artistic attitude’ and to help you extend your understanding of conceptual and practical ‘attitudes’ to research and production. A fine art practice can take many forms and you will be supported in developing diverse, challenging and ambitious approaches to your artistic concerns. As the year unfolds you will take increasing responsibility for your learning. This will include:

• Material and technical decisions
• Testing methods and individual research strategies
• An understanding of your ‘audience’ and how others may ‘read’ your work
• Theory and context
• Acknowledging open-ended approaches to making and thinking
• Understanding how risk taking and uncertainty support your progression
• Professional approaches to production and exhibiting
As well as enabling you to capitalise on the knowledge and experience gained throughout the course, this module provides you with the opportunity to invest in a sustained programme of visual and intellectual enquiry, together with the acquisition of attendant skills, that will support you in your future career or further study.

How will I learn on this module?

As a fine art student, your principle method of learning is through practice, which becomes more independently defined as the year progresses. At level six this is achieved though processes of critical thinking, creative research, experimentation, and open ended, challenging approaches to working. It is with an active engagement with these processes that you will progress your creative and conceptual skills and ‘take ownership’ of your practice. The primary site of your learning will be the studio and workshop environment. Your learning will be informed by different approaches to self-initiated and directed research, including material production, the critical analysis of a text, image, exhibition or film, or reflecting and acting on discussions with staff and peers. Independent learning initiatives are enabled through our research studios - Colour-Studio-Northumbria, Paper-Studio-Northumbria and Talk-Studio-Northumbria - forums that you are encouraged to participate in and lead on. Teaching at this level encourages you to steer the content and direction of your practice with greater autonomy, as over the year production and concept become more defined and professional. You should be prepared to identify questions and issues that can inform the one to one or group conversation, to be curious about practices other than your own and how they might contribute to, or challenge, your own way of thinking and making. These are important factors in synthesising your ‘artistic attitude’ and having confidence in it.The module offers a diversity of approaches to learning and teaching including individual tutorials, guest Lecture tutorials, group critiques, technical workshops, lectures and seminars and student led presentations. Learning crucially occurs through a range of other forms that you take authorship and leadership of. This includes attending and participating in CSN, PSN and Talk Studio events, following recommended reading and initiating independent practice and creative research, being present for informal studio conversations with peers and staff, taking time for self-reflective evaluation and acting on formative feedback, keeping up-to-date with BLACKBOARD our electronic learning portal, being responsible for planning your studio production, attending guidance sessions and meetings, and independently embedding yourself in external artworld contexts through talks, events and gallery visits.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Academic support is provided through scheduled and unscheduled contact. Work is discussed with staff in one to one tutorials and group critiques, including at least one individual tutorial with a Guest Lecturer. These formal conversations are opportunities to receive immediate formative feedback on on-going work and to act on that feedback. You write up a reflective record of these sessions on a Tutorial Feedback Report form, which represents a constructive learning tool and is intrinsic to monitoring your academic development. You are supported academically by having your own studio space to produce work in and your regular studio attendance will also enable you to speak to tutors on a more informal basis about work you are developing. The Artistic Attitudes seminar programme addresses various approaches to research and practice and the sessions are designed to progressively support your critical understanding of what constitutes a professional and independent contemporary art practice. Formative feedback therefore occurs continually across the range teaching contexts.

Further formal academic support is provided via information posted on the eLP, the notice boards, communication via e-mail and designated staff office hours. The Mid-Point Review, at the end of semester one will provide timely formative feedback and guidance on the strengths of your developing practice and areas that can be improved upon. The Library is open 24 hours a day and the Electronic Learning Portal houses all your module documents including your timetable.

Where appropriate, students may also be directed to engage with Study Skills +, or other resources offered through the University Student Support Services such as Dyslexia Support. Guidance tutorials also provide opportunities for students to discuss, in confidence, their academic progress on the programme Additional support is fostered through the Student Rep. system and the Student Administration and Support Centre can offer advice on academic procedural matters.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Demonstrate a synthesis of your creative and conceptual skills through an informed and critical engagement with contemporary fine art practice and theory.
2. Present work in an exhibition context that reveals an awareness of appropriate and professional methods of display and audience reception.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Identify and resolve connections between intention, process, research and context.
4. Establish an independent fine art practice that demonstrates that material decisions have been critically considered and tested against ideas.
5. Demonstrate the capacity to pursue a sustained and independent fine art practice, including its logistics, progression and outcomes.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

6. Demonstrate initiative, ambition and resolution in the realisation of a professionally positioned, contemporary art practice.

How will I be assessed?

Mid-Point Review -Formative
(MLO’s 1,3,4,5)
Semester 1
You will present a considered display of work in progress for the Mid-Point Review at the end of semester one. All supporting coursework from semester 1, including contextual research/documentation, reading list and an artist statement will also be presented. This ‘Progress Review’ is a crucial point in your progression through the year. It enables you to reflect on your achievements so far and to respond to feedback, whilst also encouraging you to continue to test your ideas and to take risks before the final summative assessment point.
Formative Feedback
Individually focused feedback will be provided within 5 workings days of the Mid-Point Review submission deadline. This will take the form of a Feedback Meeting with two members of staff and one other student. Your student ‘buddy’ will write up your feedback notes, which you will then type up and upload to the eLP via TURNITIN. All feedback will be provided in the context of the module learning outcomes and module assessment criteria and will advise you on the strengths of your evolving practice as well as identifying areas for further development. Students that have been unable to achieve the learning outcomes to a satisfactory level at the MPR stage will work with a member of staff to construct a Learning Agreement. An individual programme of work will be designed to address and improve upon particular areas of weakness.
Summative Assessment – (MLO’s 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)
Semester 2
The weighting of this assessment is 100% and takes the form of a major, public exhibition of work. It is intended to be as close to a professional exhibition as possible and will reflect the extent to which you have established an independent and critically positioned fine art practice. The submission will take the form of a professional exhibition of practical work; supporting coursework, contextual research/documentation, reading list and an artist statement. The module is assessed by a team of fine art staff and moderated by an external examiner. Following the summative assessment, you will receive a hard mark in the form of a percentage grading. This will indicate your overall achievement of the module learning outcomes and will contribute to your final Degree Classification.
Summative Assessment Feedback
Dates and times will be advertised for students to receive verbal feedback on their final degree results. This will be offered following the completion of the University Exam Board process, on the day of, or shortly after, the formal publication of results. All feedback will be provided in the context of the learning outcomes and assessment criteria provided to the students at the start of the module.


VA5002, VA5003, AH5009 or evidence of equivalent learning.


VA6002, AH6008

Module abstract

Full details are contained in the other sections of the module specification

Course info

UCAS Code W100

Credits 80

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020

Fee Information

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