VA4014 - Introduction to Contemporary Art

What will I learn on this module?

To enable the development of your own independent art-making, your learning will include practical skills in drawing, in both manual and digital forms, to help visualise and document ideas. You will learn the principles of visual and textual analysis in order to support your critical acuity and academic writing; this will include key academic skills in conducting research, sourcing and referencing. Your studio engagement will be supported by learning necessary skills in presenting, hanging, installing and documenting artworks in both 2D and 3D forms. You will also be required to complete appropriate Health and Safety inductions in order to appreciate good studio practice.

To complement your practical and professional skills, you will receive an introduction to the emergence of modern art and its expansion in the contemporary context. To map the historic development of Western artistic practice, examples will be used from three main periods:

• The growth of the modern city, visualised through 19th Century Impressionism
• The development of ideas of society through 20th century Modernism
• The questioning of society through resistant contemporary art practices. Particularly those associated with gender, race, sexuality and class.

These examples will be used to investigate fundamental considerations about representation, intercultural processes, decolonisation strategies, materiality, process, display, accessibility, networks and viewership, and to help you reflect upon your own creative practice. By studying, analysing and discussing these examples, you will learn key skills in researching, analysing and writing about art, which will give you the core foundational skills for study through your programme.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a blend of practical and traditional academic teaching. The teaching will be constructive, and offer you experiential learning opportunities to test and apply the skills you will be expected to develop. Art history and theory will be integrated into the development of your studio practice through four specific teaching sessions. These will incorporate a short contextualising lecture, followed by seminar discussion and directed workshop tasks. Each will focus on specific artworks and a relevant text, and position that practice through the considerations of context, materiality, process, display and audiences. You will be expected to expand your learning independently, by investigating physical artworks off-campus and analysing their visual and material qualities, their historical, social and cultural context and their conceptual approaches.

This will complement the development of visualisation skills through life drawing, in order to develop your ability to document, record and visualise what you observe. You will also develop skills in rendering information through digital drawing tools to help visualise 3D spaces and objects. Installing and documenting artwork will be learned through hands-on experience in the studio where you will learn to use the appropriate tools and equipment for use with a range of different art forms.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You are supported by an academic team, and by a module leader who will introduce the module at the start of the semester and offer guidance throughout. Academic support will be provided by group learning, lectures and practical sessions with support from technicians. Your learning is mapped out for you in a module guide given to you at the start of the semester that includes your assessment brief, guidance notes and key dates for the semester to help you organise and plan your time. Teaching materials, notices and guidance will be made available to you through our online electronic learning portal). This is accessible online both on campus and externally. You will have a university email that we contact you through, and all course timetabling is published on your electronic timetable. You will have twenty-four hour access to the university library. To support you we will provide you with on-going formative feedback through the teaching you receive, and will provide you with assessment criteria by which you might understand and meet the module learning outcomes. Learning materials for seminar and workshop sessions – such as examples, relevant texts to read, and worksheets - will be provided in advance of the teaching sessions.

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 critical appreciation of the forms and diversity of historic and contemporary art practice.
2. Demonstrate an evolving understanding of the range of creative research processes.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

3. Evidence emerging creative research skills including accessing high quality material and evaluation of critical voices.
4. Demonstrate a development of your personal organisation, oral and written communication, and technical proficiency.

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

5. Develop and apply transferable skills linked to self-organisation, art world experiences, and individual curiosity.

How will I be assessed?

Summative Assessment (100%):

To support your historical and critical studies of art, you submit a portfolio demonstrating key skills, including: drawing, installation of an artwork, colour-matched photographic documentation of an artwork, and completed Health & Safety inductions. The components of your portfolio will be completed throughout the semester. All components must be completed and submitted to satisfactory standards in order to pass the module.

Summative Assessment Feedback

You will receive verbal feedback from your Studio Tutor within seven days of the submission deadline. Feedback is individual and provided in the context of the assessment criteria given to you at the start of the semester in the module guide. Written feedback on your historical and critical studies test is delivered within 20 working days via the eLearning Portal.

Formative Feedback
To prepare you successfully to undertake the summative assessment(s) on this module, formative assessments will be set by the module team. These may take the form of in-class tasks or projects, developmental activities undertaken between classes, or learning exercises/activities set over a longer period. Feedback (written and/or oral) will be provided to help you learn from, reflect on, and develop in light of these formative assessments.

The assessment task tests all of the MLOs.





Module abstract

This module will introduce you to the context of Contemporary Art while also providing you with a necessary grounding in some fundamental academic and practical study skills. These skills will provide you a scaffold upon which you might best utilise the learning opportunities in the programme and further build your knowledge beyond the module. By studying the development of artistic practice from the 19th Century to the present day, within the context of global interconnection and strategies of decolonisation, you will learn key skills in researching, analysing and writing about art, which will give you the core foundational skills for study through your programme. You will learn through a blend of practical and traditional academic teaching, including lectures, seminars, demonstrations and tutorials. Assessment is by way of a portfolio through you which demonstrate key skills (such as drawing or installation).

Course info

UCAS Code W105

Credits 20

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 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


Useful Links

Find out about our distinctive approach at

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy