A major event in the annual school calendar, Top Arts: VCE 2008 presents outstanding work completed by young student artists as part of their assessment for VCE Art and Studio Arts.
VCE Art requires students to complete a body of works that involves a broad and innovative investigation and the progressive realisation and resolution of ideas, directions and individual concepts, either in an exploratory folio or through one or more visual solutions. VCE Studio Arts requires students to complete a design process that defines an area of exploration in a work brief and the production of a cohesive folio of finished works of art.
This exhibition highlights the National Gallery of Victoria’s strong commitment and support of contemporary art, arts education and showcases the ideas and attitudes of young people.
Temporary Exhibition (Gallery 17), Level 3
People are fascinated by modern technology. The world is becoming dependent on electronic wizardry and high-tech lifestyles to the exclusion of nature. This obsession with technology, symbolised by the iPod, and how it is taking over and destroying the natural elements, is at a point where the world is becoming severely affected. Seasons are changing and global warming could have catastrophic consequences. Land artist and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy influenced my work and the Australian drought inspired the desert-textured forms.
My work deals with the competition for living space between humans and native animals. The areas of contention are within rooftops, the urban environment and the surrounding landscape. The devastation of the native habitat, caused by logging, farming and industrialisation, has forced native animals to adapt or perish. Mankind considers its right to land ownership as paramount and justifies this conviction by devaluing and demonising these creatures. The construction of this ‘reality’ is mirrored by the use of digital photographic manipulation in my work.
My main intention was to produce photographic manipulations that obscure reality and present a dramatic atmosphere through the use of distortion in texture and colour, with a strong emphasis on moody, deep lighting. I used Photoshop to dramatise modern imagery, through layering, curves, colour balance, dodging and burning, resulting in an artwork that alters reality and sparks a powerful and eerie atmosphere.
We often create barriers to conceal our emotions from others. By making the subject’s expression ambiguous, I explored the idea that the direct gaze can be both confronting and vulnerable. The strong lighting of chiaroscuro achieves depth and suggests that the face emerges from and retreats back into the shadow. I painted the oil in layers, firstly blocking in the image in one tone and then gradually building up the colour. To achieve a strong likeness, I chose to focus only on the face, in order to emphasise and dramatise the expression.
I created an artwork that expressed the delicate and fragile nature of emotions experienced by people who suffer from a phobia, and to show that some phobias have a humorous side. I explored a range of irrational fears and created an alphabet book using hankies. I reduced the depth in each image, flattening the surface to minimise the background and any sense of movement, to focus the viewer on the emotions portrayed in each shot. I manipulated the images in Photoshop, and then heat-pressed them onto the hankies.
I explored the theme of beliefs in my work, mainly the belief in ghosts and spirits. I wanted to imagine their activities and what they might do in people’s homes. A digital SLR camera with a tripod was used to capture the image, and then I used Photoshop to edit and enhance the lighting. I gave the image a sepia tone to suggest the long tradition of ghost photography.
Using the effect of scrunched paper, my intention in this series was to highlight the progressive destruction that we, through industry and war, are wreaking upon the world. I wanted to depict a world in an almost post-apocalyptic setting. I used the flexibility of Photoshop to edit and manipulate images into the five frames. This work presents a view of the frightening potential for harm that we are currently inflicting on our planet – a calamity that hopefully will never be reached.
This photograph is an exploration of how many of us, both consciously and unconsciously, are consumed by body image. Projecting fragmented patterns on the bodies emphasises natural curves, yet also conceals them. I have used the shadowing to show that, although someone may appear happy and confident on the exterior, there may be an issue of poor self-esteem and body perception within. The four figures are huddled together in an attempt to have the viewer see them not as individuals but as one group, relying heavily on each other for acceptance.
Inspired by the poetic assemblages of Australian artist Rosalie Gascoigne, I combined line, colour and letterforms to create personal reflections based on patterns. This created a high contrast between the two series – one is very controlled, structured and ordered, whereas the other is very sporadic and free. My main objective was to create my own style of balance, incorporating both asymmetrical and symmetrical pieces. The intricate patterns in the negative spaces in the background of both series are visually stimulating and create aesthetically pleasing compositions.
My focus was the human body. I wanted to explore the strength of humanity from both a physical and psychological perspective. I looked at anatomy and the interaction between family members and friends. Each canvas offers a different perspective – the sheer determination exhibited via the facial expression; the muscular power of the arm as it reaches out of the water; and the watery barrier being obliterated. Synthetic polymer paint is a favourite of mine, as it dries quickly, allowing me to create an image of maximum detail in minimum time.
Australian Impressionism was a major influence on my landscapes, especially the portrayal of the powerful Australian light, created in a multitude of amazing colours and tones. My aim was to further my technical skills and my understanding of composition and creative techniques. I have a passion for landscapes, and choose to use pastel – I appreciate its immediacy and the chance to explore techniques such as broken line, scumbling and lead-in lines/shapes. Pastel allows me to experiment with an abundance of colour where light itself is reflected in the pastel’s pure pigments.
My intention was to present the aesthetic qualities of dominoes by replicating them exactly to scale. I was influenced by Donald Judd and Claes Oldenburg, who believed art is meant to be beautiful, ‘without any explanation or reason’. By stripping away the politics and depth of meaning found in art, I wished to provoke feelings of innocence, naivety and the playfulness of childhood, reflected in games, puzzles and toys. I combined this with the use of repetition and colour to accentuate these qualities, using a mould to create the pieces.
I was looking at the way atmospheric conditions can influence the landscapes that surround us. The work of both Ansel Adams and Bill Henson was a source of inspiration for me. I used a digital SLR camera to capture these scenes and printed them on rag photographic paper to accentuate the ambiguous edges created by the fog, which served to preserve the atmosphere of the scene when transferred into the photographic format.
I explored still life in the domestic environment to reveal the beauty in simplicity, and glorify the delicacy in these everyday items. My starting point was seeing the incredible reflections in a set of new cooking pots at home. I then explored a variety of reflective materials, such as steel, chrome, glass, and the surfaces of cars, polished kitchenware and household appliances. Drawing inspiration from the photorealist movement as well as artist Nathan Taylor, I painted from photographs that I had taken, striving to capture highly intricate details in oil paint applied over acrylics.
I wanted to create bold, curvaceous, symmetrical forms. I was inspired by my talented art teacher’s work. After adding much to the clay heap to be recycled, and using every free period and every art class, I slowly improved. I did perfect my technique over time but disaster is never far away with ceramics when making extreme shapes. After testing many glazes, I was very happy to see my works finished. I can’t wait to make more in the future.
I explored the luminous and spider-like reflections that water and sunlight make on the human figure underwater. My main focus was to capture the thin, fluid lines that form around the natural curves of the body, and to create a sense of weightlessness. Martine Emdur’s paintings, which show reflections bouncing off swimming figures, were the start of my exploration into underwater photography. But painting on a large scale allowed me to enhance the contrasting colours and patterns made by the light.
Kunst film pays homage to the silent German Expressionist films of the 1920s in which a heightened sense of melodrama and exaggeration meant the characters were often initially misinterpreted by the viewer. The ambiguity of the film’s characters and their actions challenge our perception of good and evil. The stark expressionist techniques distort our view of the scientist’s actions, suggesting that he is not as evil as his actions demonstrate. The film’s soundtrack combines several Russian classical pieces pre-dating 1938.
Having always loved old cars and photographed them for the fun of it, I decided to concentrate on them as my theme. Early in the year I inadvertently discovered the reflective qualities of the chrome features which decorate so many of these old motor vehicles. In this picture I wanted to capture the multiple images reflected in the various elements that adorn cars, such as the bumper bar, lights and grill. I particularly like the way the distorted and indistinct figures are blended against the shiny, rigid surface of the chrome.
I wanted to expose the fear some people have when confronted by others of foreign appearance, and compel viewers to face social issues such as multiculturalism and relationships with minority groups. Inspired by the diversity of people in my community, I explored why this variety is stifled in national stereotypes. The viewing experience is not meant to be passive; the gaze of the Indian man bores into the viewer. The Hindi text illustrates the superficiality of foreign intimidation. Once the text is understood, as indicated by the title, it is no longer threatening.
This is a social comment on the inner feelings of female teenagers responding to bullying, peer pressure, questions of belonging, depression, self-esteem, body image, anxiety, social cliques and pressure from the media. I placed my subject in a symbolic prison. She is trying to escape the realities of the outside world, but can find no comfort inside herself. No matter how much she tries to adapt and change in order to feel accepted, her tormentors are always looming.
My sister Harriet is one of those truly rare, calming and serene people. Now fourteen years old, she is becoming more independent and enquiring. I had been exploring how to capture a ‘still moment’ through the relationship of people and their surroundings. I experimented with screenprinting, ink painting, charcoal and gouache before using oil paint. I clothed Harriet in cool colours to suggest tranquillity, juxtaposed against the darkness and vigour of an ancestral chair. Circular brushstrokes suggest an uplifting mood and underlying turmoil. I contrasted gentleness and strength, warmth and cool, to suggest imminent momentum.
Recollections is based on tales told to me by my grandmother. I sorted through old photographs looking for images reminiscent of the emotions and themes in her recollections. I wanted the works to project a sense of the story behind each piece. Oil paint was used to capture the contemplative and curious expression of the child and to create the contrast and unity that heightened the mood. I painted in an alla prima style, which required me to set aside periods of two days, devoting at least eight hours a day to each work.
‘Out my backdoor’ was my theme. I was inspired by Robert Bault’s quote ‘Enjoy the little things, for some day you will look back and realise they were the big things’. I wanted my photographs to reflect Australian culture and the array of opportunities that this country offers. The young girl is embarking on another journey, symbolically stepping into a new world of opportunities and experiences. The muted blues of Point Roadknight Beach accentuate the red dress, evoking exciting and vibrant emotions. I printed on matte paper to highlight the vivid hues.
I created coiled-formed, crystal-glazed vessels on the wheel. It brought me complete enjoyment and fun. By creating from coils I was able to make large, interesting and unique shapes with more precision. Using the wheel, I could make them almost perfectly symmetrical. I didn’t want to put too much planning into a vessel beforehand but rather to enjoy the process of the pot evolving in front of my eyes. The effectiveness of the textured, blue-crystal glaze is what unites and enhances the form and gives it its full potential.
I created a collection of pieces that dealt with the frailty of the human condition without the clichéd perspective of teenage angst. I became obsessed with the states of the mind and the progression from one fear to another, from happiness to depression. The mind is everything, and can consume and cripple us. Through self-portraiture I developed subtle distortions in composition which allowed me to create emotional expression. I focused on light and shadow to create contrasts and the abstraction of human fragility.
I was inspired by Jeffrey Smart’s landscapes of industrial sites and shipping containers. I decided to explore different forms that these could take in my own painting and photography. I gained permission to tour a warehouse where containers are stored between shipping runs. I wanted to highlight how these objects, which don’t play much of a direct part in many of our lives, are often just left to rust and decay.
I focused on capturing regional Victorian landscapes at dusk. My aim was to experiment with manipulations to capture and explore the aesthetic potential of seemingly common landscape images. My pieces emphasise breathtaking landscapes that occur so commonly, yet generally go unnoticed. Using digital photography, Photoshop and HDR techniques, I was able to redraft the tone, composition and chiaroscuro of each image. Tools such as diffuse glow, contrast, burn, dodge, sponge and zoom magnifiers were employed to refine any inaccuracies produced by the HDR process.
Through photo-manipulation I have explored and illustrated some concepts surrounding human evolution: the extent to which humans are corrupted by technology, as well as the sickly beauty of evolution itself. Using my imagination I worked from rough sketches before using Photoshop to combine my own photos with a few copyright-free images found on the web. I wanted to blur the barrier between reality and fantasy, and pushed my technical skills to make the images appear as realistic as possible. The images speak for themselves.
I aimed to create a strong visual portrayal of female adolescence, a time when issues of identity and belonging preoccupy many young women. As I am involved in theatre, I was interested in the performative aspect of characters from everyday life. I wanted viewers to empathise with the subject, and to understand what it feels like to grow up in a society that can be very critical. The spotlight effect emphasises the figure as the focal point. The application of paint was a detailed process. I adopted fine brushwork techniques, layering paint over a wash base.
The quote ‘Even an invisible enemy can kill’, by David Malouf, inspired me to portray the emotional ramifications of war. I studied the human form and the interdependence between the physical and emotional wellbeing of individuals – how physical form is affected by the strength or weakness of the human spirit. The futility and loss of life which characterised the First World War influenced my depiction of the faces of the soldiers. Using graphite pencils, shoe polish, shellac and bitumen on newsprint represented the physical conditions of warfare and intensified the sense of desperation and loss.
My short film is a symbolic representation of life, its stages and cyclic nature. I wanted the old house, its doors and rooms to tell the story. The absence of people was designed to create space to allow viewers to reflect and superimpose their own interpretations, perhaps even see themselves in the rooms. I edited with Final Cut Express and used a mini DV camera on a dolly to generate movement, as life is always moving. Layers were added through the repetitive music and the imagery invoked by the poem.
This comic visualises the song Cabin man by the Minneapolis noise-punk band, The Cows (1987–98). A wide range of materials and techniques, ranging from acrylics on canvas to scribbled pencil drawings, express the main character’s messy, dilapidated, decaying views on life. Each individual image was scanned into the computer and combined with other image layers to create the pages. The simplest pages have two layers, while others combine paint, pencil, oil pastel, markers and ink layers.
My mate Noah is interested in street art, so I used that as the starting point for this portrait. I used spray paint and stencils for the figure, and for the twin fin I used oil paint, to create an almost life-size painting, which I feel captures his personality. All my portraits are of my surfing mates; however, each one represents the individual style and personality of these people.
My work explores visual representations of thought, focusing on an individual’s interactions with the non-physical aspects of their existence. I created a series of pen, watercolour and gouache illustrations which serve as ‘mental maps’, with thoughts expressed as repeated patterns, shapes and motifs. My interest in bookbinding and self-publishing led me to transfer my illustrations into a zine, where each turn of the page furthers the ideas of my original concept.
I wanted to explore the magic of forests and ancient myths of the Green Man, the Celtic link between man and nature. I created my own interpretations of him and chose to work with linocut because the strong contrast between black and white was just what I needed for the look and atmosphere of a mysterious forest glade. The drawing was based on a friend’s driveway and the beautiful mountain ash forests around my home. The first tree on the left has the face of the Green Man watching the path – observing what mankind is doing to his forests.
In my animation I introduced the protagonist within the poster, and the person putting up the poster as the antagonist. I wanted to illustrate that, despite the obvious differences, the characters actually complement each other. The big burly villain and the quick rascally cat can co-exist in the same environment. I decided to overcome the limitations of Flash by using a mixture of fluid animation, powerful voiceless characters, and soaring music composed by my friend Josh Miller.
I have studied dance for ten years. I love to channel feelings and emotions through the flow and movement of the body. My intention was to express the joy, rhythm and colour of dance through abstraction, and to capture the essence of my feelings when I dance – the ethereal reaching beyond the everyday towards the sublime. I used studio lighting and a 400D SLR Canon camera with a very slow shutter speed. Use of Photoshop allowed me to explore a range of emotional tones by enhancing the colours, and to remove unnecessary background details.
In exploring ideas surrounding consumerism, over-consumption, mass production and the power of advertising and logos, I observed a society that displayed diminished values. Americanisation and consumption are central to these messages, and were themes I wanted to portray through artistic practices. I investigated ideas of juxtaposing desires against needs, and commenting on lifestyles where we are greatly influenced by a dominant consumer culture. The symbolic use of the rabbits suggests an uncontrollable expansion of consumerist cultures. Through the use of silicon moulds and plaster, I created uniform sculptures that incorporated notions of parody and satire.
My passion for architecture inspired a photographic series of doors – a personal theme yet instantly familiar to all. I took shots around Melbourne and manipulated the intrinsic qualities of light through digital photography and Photoshop, enhancing the striking shapes, harmonic lines and diverse tonal gradations that pervaded every scene. To accentuate their elegant characteristics and contemporary features, I emphasised the boisterous and colourful qualities of each door, expressing my adoration for, and relationship with, the built environment.
Frames explores the fact that, even though we are able to capture every moment, we have actually lost a lot. Appearance has become a measure of self-worth. People can have multiple web pages on sites like Facebook and Myspace, displaying profiles that they can manipulate to promote themselves globally. A century ago photographs were rare, prized objects. Today technology has made them commonplace, devalued, devoid of meaning. The frame’s constant shifting is connected to that lack of inner clarity. The film format only adds to the depreciation of photography.
This drawing of my friend Saskia was inspired by 1950s fashion. I wanted to convey that beauty and glamour can hide feelings of insecurity and isolation. I used dramatic shadows and high tonal contrast to symbolise that there are things that she is hiding, just as the shadows hide what is around her. I wanted to express that beauty does not necessarily bring happiness. I used a charcoal pencil and charcoal sticks to create the drawing, after producing a photo shoot in the style of the 1950s to use as source material.
My aim was to portray emotion through portraiture and lifeless materials. I was inspired by the realism achieved by Baroque artists, particularly in drapery. This triggered my idea of representing emotions through fabrics, not only facial expressions. Drawing similarities between the crinkled textures of paper and skin, the paper became a manifestation of anger. In this work the skin begins to take on the texture of the paper. I imitated the dramatic lighting and style of Baroque art by using a dry brush technique of oil paint on canvas over a ground of burnt sienna.
I wanted to challenge the stereotypical perfect fairies that we are introduced to as children, and to critique our obsession with hunting, controlling and attempting to understand the unknown. Inspired by the environment, I found items at an eerie salt lake where dried bones and rusted objects jumped out at me, begging to be made into something fascinating. I sculpted the creatures out of fish, cow, sheep, crab and chicken bones and the skeletal remains of a large beetle which I re-assembled. The book documents the fictional capturing of these creatures and aims to define and defy them.
My artwork explores the vivacity of modern art, embodying a sense of emotion. I enjoy experimenting with colour and composition. I start with freeform lines and shapes and build the layers, obscuring some parts and accentuating others. I want to create a story, although the story may not be obvious, even to me. I make works that challenge opinions. I find it fascinating to see what people call art these days. I was influenced by Jon Cattapan’s technique and later by the work of Gareth Sansom and the German Expressionists.
I focused on the effect of industry on nature. The process began when an oil rig visited my hometown, Portland. This unfamiliar construction was in blatant contrast to the natural environment. I developed imagery to highlight the qualities of trees by using the grainy texture of a woodcut to contrast with the mechanical shapes of the rig. The use of autumnal leaves and fleeing birds illustrates how industrialisation can ruin a natural environment, and expresses its detrimental effect on our coastal town.
This shot is one of a series of three photographs taken of the Brighton beach boxes. The beach boxes are a Melbourne icon and they have been extensively photographed. This image shows them in a different light: instead of shooting them from the front during the day, I have shot them from the rear at night. The photo also captures some nocturnal activity on the beach, not normally associated with the beach boxes, adding a dynamic narrative element. The image was taken with a Canon 20D and edited on Photoshop.
Problems affect people regardless of age, gender and nationality. This artwork concentrates on the personal problems of today’s youth regarding issues of identity and their place in the world. The work expresses a moment when this young person feels all his problems crashing down on him. He is uncertain and fragile, feeling that his problems are insurmountable. Using lead pencil allowed soft, blended tones, creating contrast and texture.
Self-portraiture is a direct and confronting way of dealing with our perceptions of ourselves and communicating this to others. I expressed contemplation and introspection through the averted gaze and the use of intense lighting to deepen shadows and enhance the emotional and dramatic effect. The challenge of recreating myself led me to explore the face and human anatomy. I used photographs to study pose and facial expressions, and began sketching with pencils and pastels to create details, shadow and colour. Oil paint allowed me to increase the sense of realism in the facial features.
The salamander, a symbolic creature used by French kings to decorate their chateaux, is no longer trapped in its stonewall setting but is breathing its story into the grey-blue sky. A silent witness for centuries, it is now free to communicate its stories. Because it is a mythological creature, its language can only be in symbolic form. Although the letterforms that it breathes out cannot be deciphered, the Latin inscription can be translated as ‘Life is chance’. I used a combination of media in my folio: oil, acrylic, gouache, ink pencils, ink and Letraset.
I wanted to capture that daydream feeling that you can find yourself in as you are just walking down the street. Although the buildings have decayed, the surreal sky and overall feeling of the street give a sense of beauty in the everyday surroundings that usually goes unnoticed. It was this notion of the unnoticed being overwhelming and comforting that inspired me.
I have always enjoyed drawing and sketching, and industrial objects have also been an interest. So I produced a dumpster, lantern, photo-negative enlarger and a set of bins. I wanted to show them in a rejected and decaying state. I achieved this by simplifying their appearance, adding rough outlines and splattered gouache. The ink allowed the free-flowing manipulation of forms and simple outlining of the shape. The colours used are those of the Australian landscape, which, combined with the wooden base, integrates each unnatural object with the natural environment.
My photograph captures the transition from adolescence to adulthood, and the isolation and confusion associated with it. I wanted to convey these emotions through the image of a girl lost in a forest, representing the idea of entering adulthood without fully understanding what is to come. Her anxious body language and the sinister, shadowy background heighten the sense of unease and her fear of the unknown. I have used Photoshop to manipulate the image, creating the illusion of the background disappearing into darkness.
After experiencing the trauma of losing my grandmother to lung cancer, I decided to focus on portraiture and on the intense conflicting emotions that people experience when losing loved ones. The portraits were of unconnected individuals of different ages, genders, ethnicities and religious backgrounds, bound together by the grief and sadness of losing someone close. I was influenced by Chuck Close and Cherry Hood, and used high quality pencils and paper to achieve immediacy and intensity of colour.
The music, fashion and film of the 1920s to 1950s inspired my interest in the photography of the era. I took portraits that echoed the beautiful, highly glamorised images of the Hollywood Golden Era by artists such as George Hurrell and Athol Shmith. I used my friend Erin as a model, replicating the clothes, hairstyling and makeup of the 1930s. I utilised traditional lighting techniques, and both 35 mm film in a SLR camera and 2¼ inch film in a Rolleicord camera to imitate the medium used by photographers of the time.
I am interested in the role of technology in our lives. My fascination with the intimate intertwining of man and machine has stuck with me since my childhood exposure to films such as The Terminator. Mechanical pencil is a medium I am familiar with. It allowed me to inject small details necessary to illustrate my idea. I found difficulty in realising a fantasy world that is dysfunctional, barely standing and symbolic of the simultaneous growth and destruction of humanity. The machine bears the hands of humanity – who is to blame, man or his creations?
Deeply affected by the Chinese earthquake last August, I wanted this painting to show the destruction of lives through the torn landscape. The panels explore different stages of the aftermath: the immediate horror, the grief and, finally, the reconstruction that offers hope. I created the cracks by layering gesso over oil paint, then scrunching and stretching the canvas while it was drying. The cracks are concentrated in the epicentre and extend outward to represent the far-reaching ramifications of the disaster. The traditional symbol of the heavenly gateway provides a sense of harsh irony.
This collection of works tells the story of humans overcoming their inner misery in a polluted barren world, growing wings and gaining freedom. The world is growing into an industrial, chemical wasteland and people wander like clockwork through the slums of the underground, never stopping to change what is happening. Organs decay and hearts turn black as our humanity is slowly ripped away. I used a range of media to create this turbulent world, expressing my thoughts and emotions in my own personal way.
Being Aboriginal from the Yorta Yorta clan, I studied my heritage, my culture and its stories. I used traditional patterns and techniques. Dot painting is used to represent the journey of my people, tracking where they have walked. Rainbow Snake is a Dreamtime story passed down to me, which describes how the Rainbow Snake created the rivers and the crevices to make valleys for the flow of the Murray River. The colours represent our land, nature and the plants used for our staple foods.
My intention was to display the natural qualities and aesthetic possibilities of architecture. My aim was to bring out features like line, shape and pattern. These images were taken at night as I thought this would be the best way to make their qualities apparent. I used Photoshop to manipulate the images to enhance the characteristics that I wanted to showcase.
I am a keen collector of oriental furniture and ceramics. Inspired by the nineteenth-century movement of Japonisme, I wanted to recreate a body of work focusing on the influence that traditional Japanese and contemporary Western cultures have had on each other’s customs and traditions. I created this self-portrait to reflect the decline of the geisha’s role in an increasingly Westernised Japanese culture, in which her role has been reduced to that of a tourist attraction. Using graphite produced a photorealistic quality and tonal gradations.
I believe that portraiture conveys more emotion than other art forms. A connection arises. The viewer gazes at the artwork and the work stares back. I used the Archibald Prize finalists as reference points. I wanted to suggest the interests that define the subject. Oil paint gave me the freedom to create depth, tone, colour and texture to create a realistic portrayal of my subject. This, however, contrasts against the abstracted background, which is brimming with movement and energy.