Oxford Fine arts course experience

James Lomax, Oxford Fine arts 2015-2019
1 Jun 2020

What’s special about studying Fine art at Oxford apart from its name value?

The Ruskin School of Art is the name of the Fine Art Department of Oxford University. It was founded by John Ruskin, a leading art critic and theorist of the Victorian era, in 1871. The Ruskin School of Art is roughly 75% practical/studio based and 25% academic, giving students an excellent grounding in art history and theory. This is a unique approach and one that I believe has made a huge difference to my own artistic practice

What’s the typical week of an Oxford fine arts student?

A typical week at the Ruskin would be predominantly spent in the studio, each student has a studio at either the historic High Street building (opposite Queens College) or at the Bullingdon Road Studios (a 10-15 minute walk from each other). Studios open at 9.15am and soon fill with people busy working away. There will often be a half day workshop or seminar on a Monday, this might be on developing your artist statement, developing your website or a practical workshop on casting. On a Tuesday there will be a lecture on art history and theory, with a seminar in the afternoon to discuss the previous week’s reading. In the afternoon on Wednesday first year students will study human anatomy, often in the incredible Drawing Studio in the High Street Building. Thursday mornings are given over to a visiting artist talk, this is the highlight of the week, getting to hear directly from artists from across the world about their personal experiences and how they got to the point they are at today. On a Thursday afternoon you will have the opportunity to sign up for tutorials with the visiting artist. All this study will be interspersed with time spent in your own studio making your own work and developing as an individual. The Ruskin class sizes are incredibly small, offering a maximum of 30 places a year, it has one of the highest staff to student ratios meaning that you get an incredible amount of individual attention from your personal tutors as well as visiting tutors who you can sign up for extra tutorials with. Being so small, the Ruskin has a very close, friendly and supportive atmosphere. This forms close bonds between students who often continue to work together for years after graduating and leads to a very good social life at the school itself with lots of social gatherings in the evenings and at weekends. The schools organises lots of events and visits to galleries in London and elsewhere, it also has a Professional Practice Programme which gives 2nd year students work placements over the summer break. This is an incredible opportunity to get real industry experience and introduces students to all the potential career opportunities that they can have after graduating.

In terms of after-graduation career paths, what is the trend of Korean Oxford Fine arts graduates? How active is the recruiting during 2nd and 3rd years for Fine arts? Internships? Do international students tend to remain in the US or go back?

Life after studying Fine Art has so many opportunities! The Professional Practice Programme plays a key role in helping define a student’s future. Many go on to continue their studies doing postgraduate MA/MFAs and sometimes PHDs. A lot of the students will relocate to London afterwards but people go all over the world. My friends and I all moved to London together we varied massively, some went to study at postgraduate level, some began exhibiting regularly with their work and carried on their practices from their new studios, some took jobs within art institutions such as museums and galleries and some changed career paths entirely and went into publishing or consultancy. The skills gained on a fine art degree are incredibly diverse and make the students very able to adapt and be highly sought after.

What’s it like living in Oxford as a student?

Oxford is an incredible place to study, the history there is amazing and as a University town, everything you need is close enough to walk or cycle. It offers a unique experience like no other place and you get to live right in the heart of it. Equally it is just an hour on the train from London so it is very easy to get to see exhibitions in the capital!