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Visual Arts

In a uniquely immersive environment – with its own connections to art history through the legacy of Edward James, artist, poet and patron of the Surrealist Movement – you will explore and expand your work. Specialise in painting and drawing, sculpture,tapestry and textile art, or explore interdisciplinary practice. Benefit from generous studio space, a broad range of visiting artists and lecturers, excellent workshop facilities, highly skilled technicians, seminars, workshops, individual and group tutorials, critical sessions and self-directed research.

"I found out about West Dean through word of mouth but more people need to know it is here because the facilities are world class and the studio spaces are great compared to most London schools." Lotti Closs, MFA Sculpture student. Shortlisted for 2014 Bloomberg New Contemporaries.

"The best thing about being here is the ability to expand your ideas. We aren't restricted and we have the freedom to challenge ourselves." Anne Alldread, Postgraduate Diploma Tapestry and Textile student

"I have had the opportunity to experiment with different techniques and my painting has developed and expanded considerably." Pam Ibbotson, MA Visual Arts student

“In a uniquely immersive environment full-time students can dedicate their time to exploring and expanding their work. The College’s emphasis on skills-based making in the context of contemporary practice is rare in arts education." Dr David Stent, Visual Arts Programme Leader

For more insights from students and to see some of their work please see the 2015 prospectus.

You can expect to:
Develop advanced making and craft skills appropriate to your discipline.
Undertake original theoretical and contextual research to inform your practice.
Work in large open studios with excellent facilities.
Benefit from the inspirational and historically significant cultural setting of West Dean.
Visit leading galleries and exhibitions.


PAINTING AND DRAWING - Places still available for Sept 2015 - apply now

Students who specialise in Painting and Drawing at West Dean College are given the freedom to explore different materials and techniques, both according to individual approach and level of study. As well as being supported in developing advanced skills, you are encouraged to expand upon established practices, testing the limits of your chosen discipline. You are also introduced to theoretical considerations regarding visual culture, aesthetics and philosophy, allowing you to develop an informed understanding of how your work relates to current and historical practice.

The programme is delivered through a combination of studio work, seminars, workshops, individual and group tutorials, critical sessions and professional development.

SCULPTURE - Places still available for Sept 2015 - apply now

Sculpture students at West Dean College are given the time and space to develop an independent and informed understanding of sculptural practice. With an emphasis on making that incorporates established and experimental approaches to sculpture, the combination of large studios and an outdoor sculpture courtyard make it possible for students to realise ambitious work. You are also given the opportunity to explore site-specific contexts, with access to a number of different environments across the College grounds.
The programme is underpinned by an engagement with theoretical considerations regarding visual culture, aesthetics and philosophy, allowing students to develop an informed understanding of how their work relates to current and historical practice and debate. The programme is delivered through a combination of studio work, seminars and lectures, workshops and tutorials, critical sessions and professional development.

TAPESTRY AND TEXTILE ART - Places still available for Sept 2015 - apply now

Our students develop an understanding of the relationships between material, process and theory. As well as being able to study specific techniques such as felt making, tapestry weaving, printing and stitch, you will be encouraged to experiment with new interpretations of established processes as a way of extending your practice. Research is informed by relevant historical and theoretical contexts across the Visual Arts, particularly in relation to contemporary tapestry and textile work.


Students benefit from the professional Tapestry Studio on-site, whose Master Weaver and designer Phillip Sanderson is associate tutor for
the Visual Arts programmes. Students also have access to the specialist dye laboratory. Recent collaborations by the studio include work with artist Tracey Emin who commissioned an interpretation of her favourite painting ‘Black Cat’, exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery, London.

‘The UK’s only college offering full-time postgraduate study in tapestry and textile art.’
The Independent on Sunday

Graduate Diploma, Visual Arts, one academic year - University of Sussex award

A one-year interdisciplinary programme, validated by the University of Sussex, designed to provide a route into postgraduate study. As a concentrated undergraduate degree, the programme gives graduates of other disciplines the opportunity to transfer their skills to Visual Arts. As they progress through the programme, students can choose to specialise in Painting & Drawing, Sculpture or Tapestry & Textile Art.

Entry requirementsDegree in an art-related subject
Qualification equivalent to a second year of undergraduate study e.g. HNC, HND, DipHE
Foundation Degree in Fine Art or related subject Portfolio including a concise overview of the development and current focus of your practice, including sketchbooks, journals and an example of previous written work.

English language:
CEFR (Common European Framework of
Reference for Languages) level B1 or ILETS 6.0

View the course documentsAdobe Acrobat

Postgraduate Diploma, Visual Arts, one academic year - University of Sussex award

The Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts* is awarded by the University of Sussex and offers students the opportunity to spend one academic year specialising in a specific discipline or working across different media. Whether focused on the study of Painting and Drawing, Sculpture or Tapestry and Textile Art, the emphasis is on practical, studio-based skills, underpinned by theoretical and contextual studies. Students can undertake collaborative projects, drawing on the expert teaching and facilities across all other programmes of study at West Dean.

English language:
CEFR (Common European Framework of
Reference for Languages) level B1 or ILETS 6.0

View the course documentsAdobe Acrobat

MA, Master of Arts, one calendar year - University of Sussex award

During the successful completion of a Postgraduate Diploma students can extend their studies to a calendar year to gain an MA in Visual Arts. Through a combination of advanced studio-based work, contextual studies and critically reflective research, students will increase the sophistication of their work in preparation for the transition to professional practice.

MFA, Master of Fine Arts, two academic years - University of Sussex award

A two-year full-time programme of study suited to those who want to focus upon specialist studio practice. The first year follows the Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts, whilst the second is primarily studio based, with a dissertation completed early in the second term. Whether specialising in one discipline or working across media, MFA students will have time to develop and expand their studio work, bringing in relevant theoretical and historical perspectives.

Entry requirements for the Postgraduate Diploma/MA/MFA
An Honours degree or equivalent qualification in Visual Arts or a related discipline. Relevant work experience in an arts-related field demonstrating your ability to study at postgraduate level Portfolio including evidence of current practical work, sketchbooks and evidence of critical writing. An appropriate level of engagement with current debates in contemporary arts and making.

English language:
CEFR (Common European Framework of
Reference for Languages) level B1 or ILETS 6.0

Expert teachers

View the course documentsAdobe Acrobat

Programme Leader, Dr David Stent is an artist, writer, curator and musician. His diverse practice draws on various media including drawing, photography, digital and print publishing, film and video, and sonic and sculptural installation. His most recent work has been concerned with the role of writing in art practice, particularly in association with artists’ publications, relations between image and text, and the use of theory and philosophy in contemporary art. He holds a PhD in Fine Art from the University of Reading.

Associate Tutors
Philip Sanderson studied at Middlesex University and the Royal College of Art before joining the Professional Tapestry Studio at West Dean College in 1993. As Creative Director of the Studio, Philip has designed tapestries for numerous clients, most famously being the New Parliamentary Buildings in Westminster. His tapestry, Nr. The Cheesewring, was exhibited and sold at Collect, the premiere fair in Europe for contemporary craft.

Marcus Rees Roberts
has taught at the Slade and was Head of Printmaking at Edinburgh College of Art. He now makes paintings, prints, artists’ books and short films.

Selected visiting Lecturers and Artists: Caroline Achaintre, Michael Brennand-Wood, Linda Brothwell, Andrew Brown, Neil Chapman,George Charman, Teresita Dennis, Nicolas Feldmeyer, Sarah Hughes, Caroline de Lannoy, Outpost Gallery, Rebecca Partridge, James Rigler, Rebecca Salter, Ismini Samanidou, Will Shannon, Melanie Smith, Pat Taylor, Bouke de Vries and Peter Webster.

External examiners - Hester Reeve is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. Lesley Millar, MBE is Professor of Textile Culture at the University of the Creative Arts, Farnham.

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To find out more call our Academic Office + 44 (0)1243 818 291. Email us at diplomas@westdean.org.uk

Related information

Download a Prospectus

Download a Prospectus

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Visual Arts Blog