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Context elaborations – level 8 visual arts

Context elaborations are possible contexts for learning, with a suggestion of how they might be used with the focus achievement objective.

They can be adapted and used flexibly in any field, for example, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and design.

The listed context elaborations are examples only. Teachers can select and use entirely different contexts in response to local situation, community relevance, and students’ interests and needs.

These context elaborations are based on the key concepts for visual arts.

The context elaborations mirror culturally responsive pedagogies.

Each context elaboration is coded, using the summary notation recorded with each strand. A bold strand code indicates a dominant strand in the given context. If both or all codes are bold, they are considered to have equal weighting in the given context.

Creativity and connection

The contexts for learning below make links to the visual arts key concept of creativity and connection.

The contexts below connect to manaakitanga by building partnerships in the classroom based on trust and equity where all learning experiences are valued.

Possible context – icon or cliché?

(UC, DI, CI)

  • How are aspects of historical and current visual culture perceived and valued when viewed in different contexts? Students focus on a well-known image, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, to approach this question.
  • Students in small groups use the Internet to do initial research.
  • They make notes about production of the Mona Lisa.
  • They list and categorise the historic and current viewing contexts they find, for example: the Musée du Louvre, books, posters, television, websites, virtual galleries, postcards, clothing, tea towels, domestic ware, stationery.
  • The students discuss and record how these viewing contexts inform/influence their own reading of and response to Mona Lisa’s image.
  • They also look at a online photograph of people “viewing” the painting (many through camera screens held above their heads) at the Louvre.
  • The teacher uses a range of questions to open up discussion and guide the students through description, analysis, interpretation and evaluation of their findings:
    • When was Mona Lisa produced? By whom? For whom and why?
    • Where has the painting been exhibited?
    • Who stole the painting in 1911? Why? How did its theft and consequent return impact on its perceived value?
    • Who has used, appropriated, or modified the image? For what purpose? Is this acceptable practice? If so, under what circumstances, and why? (See notes below.)
    • Do you differentiate between the meaning and value of the original painting and of its many reproductions or variations and viewing platforms? If so, how? What accounts for the differences?
    • What do people associate with the image and why?
    • How do viewers “see” the Mona Lisa when viewing it on a camera screen held in front of or above them?
    • How does mass reproductions of the image in different forms affect its perceived value and quality as an art work?
  • Students select an art image or an image produced from current media and then manipulate it, using, for example, digital effects, or reproducing it in another media form, deconstructing it, or recontextualising it.
  • This process should be documented through a series of works.


Some examples of artists who have used, appropriated, or modified Mona Lisa include:

  • Eugène Bataille – Le Rire (The Smile), 1883
  • Jean Metzinger – Le Goûter (Tea Time or Woman with a Teaspoon), 1911
  • Marcel Duchamp – L.H.O.O.Q., 1919
  • Salvador DalíSelf Portrait as Mona Lisa, 1954
  • Andy Warhol – Thirty Are Better than One, 1963.

See also Danielle Lath’s Māori Mona Lisa (2011) or Monalisa2. Monalisa2 was among class work submitted by year 9 and 10 students to a national mix and mash competition.

In February 2012, the Prado Museum announced that restoration suggests the copy they hold of the Mona Lisa is likely to have been painted by one of Leonardo’s students. Students may find it interesting to compare the original with the Prado copy.

Inquiry and production

The contexts for learning below make links to the visual arts key concept of inquiry and production.

The contexts for learning below also connect to tino rangatiratanga by providing students with the space to engage in artistic creation and to grow beyond what they know and understand into new knowledge, understanding, and action.

Possible context – moguls, models, and millions

(UC, PK, CI)

  • Students watch Moguls, Models and Millions (available for purchase from http://www.vea.com.au).
  • Students respond to the video by discussing:
    • the power of media and advertising through brand manipulation, image, and “need” creation
    • how we are influenced by such strategies
    • how artists may bring visual form to debates about consumerism.
  • Students examine and evaluate examples of their own consumerism and examples of local, national, and global need-creation that have influenced them.
  • Responding to the video, the discussion, and their personal reflections, the students express and explore their position(s) in relation to consumerism by using coloured pencils on card prepared with black gesso to create mindful doodles (image and text).
  • They explore their positions further in a particular field, such as painting, printmaking, design, or sculpture.

Possible context – systems of organisation


  • In this context, students initially use digital photography to explore the concept of organisation.
  • Their research and exploratory studies could then be used and developed in a range of fields, such as sculpture, painting, or printmaking.
  • To begin, the students can collaborate or work individually to brainstorm the concept of organisation and to identify some physical and theoretical characteristics of the term, such as: systems, signs, mapping, allocation of space, structuring of information, conformity, individuality, community, swarm, power, subcultures …
  • Each student then takes a series of photographs within the school environment to explore the ideas they have brainstormed.
  • Next, the students consider how to give visual representation to their concept of organisation. This could be achieved through abstraction, for example, by using grids, or through manipulating representative images, for example, buildings, signs, and so on.
  • Encourage the students to use their cameras purposefully (framing, considering composition, etc) to photograph a range of subjects that show different systems of organisation.
  • Each student selects and processes a series of photographs that describe different notions of organisation, based in the brainstormed ideas.
  • The students then select a field to explore further what their chosen photographs suggest, using conventions and techniques from established practice to inform their ideas. For example, they might use the grid as a compositional structure or device to organise, classify, and so on.

Challenge and invention

The contexts for learning below make links to the visual arts key concept of challenge and invention.

The following contexts connect to ako by recognising and valuing teacher as learner and student/learner as teacher.

Possible context – speed sculpting

(PK, DI, CI)

  • The challenge is to design and make sculpture in 20 minutes.
  • Students are first introduced to the concept of binary opposites.
  • They view and discuss datashow slides, analysing examples of sculpture that investigate concerns such as: form, volume, weight, mass, surface texture, arrangement, stacking, grids, containment, compartmentalisation, balance/imbalance, positive/negative space, wrapping, hiding/revealing, suspension, penetration, deconstruction, enclosing, juxtaposition, motion – kinetics.
  • From a grab bag, each student selects a card labelled with one pair of binary opposites, for example: strong/weak, natural/artificial, lo-tech/hi-tech dominance/subordination, balanced/unsteady, confront/compromise, risk-taking/safety, beautiful/ugly, gigantic/miniscule, alone/together, powerful/weak, treasure/garbage, create/destroy, linear/cyclic, connected/disconnected, sturdy/fragile, hide/show, conceal/reveal, separate/together, whisper/scream …
  • From another grab bag, each student selects a card labelled with one sculptural concern.
  • Working in pairs, they discuss and interpret their prompts.
  • They decide on and select two sets of found objects (string, wire, pebbles, newspaper, mirrors, jars, ribbon, streamers, shells, toys, magazines, chairs, tables) and joining materials (tape, rubber bands, pressure sensitive adhesive).
  • The challenge for each pair is to work quickly and collaboratively, engaging in reflective cycles of (re)designing and (re)making (that is, re-inventing) sculpture in response to their particular combination of sculptural issues and found objects.

Possible context – reductive processes

(UC, PK, DI, CI)

  • Students spend 45 minutes making a finely detailed charcoal drawing from observation, for example, of a still-life arrangement, a figure, or an outdoor setting within the school.
  • The teacher then “instructs” the students to erase a large section of the drawing.
  • In response to the various likely reactions, the teacher facilitates a discussion examining why art works are felt to be precious, the importance of permanence, and so on.
  • After the students rework the erased part of the drawing, they discuss their experience:
    • Did they try to recreate their original drawing?
    • Did they draw something totally different? If so, why?
    • How do they relate/respond to their drawing now?
  • Some useful resources are suggested in the notes below. Some key ideas to consider and examine in relation to these resources (and the students’ experience of erasing) could include:
    • the erasing/reworking process as a way of thinking
    • how, through the act of erasing, new images and ideas present themselves
    • the drawing process as outcome
    • animation as a field depicting transformation.


Transformation and empowerment

The contexts for learning below make links to the visual arts key concept of transformation and empowerment.

The contexts for learning below also connect to tangata whenuatanga by reflecting and affirming identity, language, culture, wairua (spirituality), and whanaungatanga (connectedness).

Expertise, resources and knowledge from the wider community, for example whānau and iwi, are sought, valued, and embraced.

Possible context – framing the past

(UC, PK, DI, CI)

  • As part of making a larger body of work, students use traditional and digital printmaking technologies to produce an image of layered memories.
  • Each student interviews an older relative or family friend about their experiences as a child, a teenager, a young adult, or in middle age and about their recent memories of, for example, family life, personal objects, cultural events, historical events, and their sense of identity.
  • If a film or other suitable resource is available, it could be used to broaden the discussion of memory and to consider topics such as: why we think of history as true, the nature of interpretation, subjective versus objective truths, and the ways in which objects and images from the past embody cultural memories. (Two resources are suggested in the notes.)
  • The students make brief notes including quotes, and collect a range of visual information (for example, photographs of the person, memorabilia, snapshots, etc).
  • Each student makes a print, using self-designed handwritten fonts to etch quotes representing different stages of the subject’s life onto separate (plexi) plates, prints them out, and scans them.
  • The students then download, sort, and edit their photographs.
  • They use an appropriate programme to design and produce an image using their photographs and text.
  • The image should comprise various layers of visual information, each representing a particular time/event in the subject’s life. Faded memories, for example, could be transparent and muted, while clearer memories are more opaque and vibrant.


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Last updated March 29, 2021