The picture is a tangible expression of the artist's faith and one of the most memorable images of 20th-century British art. It took Spencer four years to paint, but in a somewhat shorter time, the students of George Green School, Isle of Dogs, have transformed his vision into something quite different.
During their autumn term last year a small group of students from the school, whose GCSE year had been using the Tate's collection to gain a greater understanding of art and cultural identity, concentrated specifically on Spencer's picture. Using photomontage and computer technology, they created the extraordinary image currently on display at the Tate Gallery called Awakenings (left).
Now, in place of the Berkshire countryside, we have Docklands, complete with the Light Railway and the looming mass of Canary Wharf. The church has been replaced by the school and along its wall, in place of the chosen, sit a parade of popular heroes including Bob Marley, footballers and feminists. On an armchair in the pictorial centre, sits a man, presumably a master, cradling two of Spencer's self-portraits. And behind him, the ghost at the feast, is the brooding presence of the painter himself. What would he have made of it? And, more importantly, what did the students make of it? Whatever they gained, it was obviously a fascinating exercise and it makes a nice contrast with the cosy, confident 1920s calm of the original. Stanley must be turning in his grave.
'Awakenings' at the Tate Gallery, Millbank, SW1 (0171-887 8000) Opening hours, Mon-Sat 10am-5.50pm, Sun 2-5.50pm, free. Pimlico
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