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ENGLISHMAN IAN KEEBLE TEACHES ENGLISH AND ART IN A NON-TRADITIONAL WAY

The many languages of art


ONCE the workday is through, adults eager to follow their artistic interests often face several limitations. Outside the typical folk-art offerings, few fine arts classes are offered to adults. While children can pick and choose from a wide range of media - from oil painting to watercolours to charcoal - adults in Slovakia are not so lucky.

KEEBLE's paintings from left to right - Garden (2002) and Venice Passage (2002).
photo: Courtesy of Ian Keeble

ONCE the workday is through, adults eager to follow their artistic interests often face several limitations. Outside the typical folk-art offerings, few fine arts classes are offered to adults. While children can pick and choose from a wide range of media - from oil painting to watercolours to charcoal - adults in Slovakia are not so lucky.

If an opportunity to enrol in an adult art class arises, one of the biggest obstacles is time. With all the demands of work and family, who can justify dedicating precious hours to something that is merely a hobby?

Bratislava-based artist Ian Keeble, an Englishman who settled in Slovakia in 1998, is giving adults not only an opportunity to develop their painting talents but also a unique justification for doing so: learning English.

A professional artist and English teacher, Keeble decided to combine his disciplines to offer adults in Slovakia a way to pursue their dreams. Keeble's English Through Art courses, which he holds in his Bratislava studio, are designed to enhance the practical skills of the participants while at the same time educating them on art history and various art techniques - in English.

photo: Courtesy of Ian Keeble

"The aim is to create a relaxed environment that offers adults the possibility to develop new skills, explore different ideas and widen their English vocabulary," Keeble said.

Classes meet once a week for three months on the ground floor of a Ružinov apartment complex, where Keeble keeps an art studio. For four evenings a week the space is reserved for classes; the rest of the time it is for Keeble's art.

Keeble came to Slovakia in 1994. In England he had become friends with a man who had contacts with the cultural scene in Slovakia. "We spoke a lot about art and I became very interested in seeing what was going on Slovakia," Keeble explains.

His first visit lasted 10 months. His second visit, shortly after the first, stretched to a year. During that time he taught English and participated in a few exhibitions across the country. In 1998, he settled down.

ENGLISH Through Art students hard at work.
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

"I decided to stay in Slovakia for good when I met the woman who is now my wife," Keeble says, smiling.

For more than three years he taught English at the Academy of Education in Bratislava. Meanwhile he painted and exhibited his artwork around the country. He had been tossing around the idea of combining art with teaching. "Then one day I said to myself 'OK, let's do it'."

The native of Chelmsford admits that the idea to teach English through art originated, to a certain extent, in England.

"I was involved with a group of artists. We were trying to set up something like this but on a much larger scale. We were developing the idea of having an art studio with teaching facilities. It was meant to be a community service project in an area with high unemployment and many empty buildings. However, the idea never got off the ground and people lost interest."

In Slovakia, the idea came to fruition. Keeble's courses have been practically full since the first one kicked off three years ago. News of class openings spreads by word-of-mouth and via Keeble's website. Some "students" take courses repeatedly.

While the adults come for both the art and the English, it is the art that prevails. In a family-like environment, adults learn the artistic skills they crave and practise English in a lively style. Because of the unorthodox teaching method, Keeble advises his students to know the basics of the language before enrolling. Knowing the basics of art, however, is not a prerequisite; a desire to learn is enough.

Keeble's idea of teaching English through art has generated interest in Košice, in Slovakia's eastern region. So far, though, the artist has not considered leaving the capital.


English Through Art takes place at Štefunkova 3, Bratislava-Ružinov. For more information, please see www.englishart.sk.



Keeble on display


AN ARTISTIC Englishman in Slovakia.
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

IAN Keeble studied art and design in Hitchin, Stevenage and Sunderland. He took courses in the Hague, the Netherlands, and worked in Israel and Europe. In his expressive paintings he combines various media, such as pastel, chalk, acrylic, tempera and oil. He brings the physical life he sees around - and carries inside - into colour.

The artist is currently exhibiting at the Parlamentka restaurant near the parliamentary building on Mudroňova 1 in Bratislava. The 20 or so smaller works, mostly portraits and landscapes from the last few years, are on display until March 15. Larger works, with mainly figurative motifs, are the subject of an exhibition at the F7 Gallery on Františkánske námestie 7, which opens March 4.

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