Illuminating identity

This activity involves observing, analysing, describing, researching and interpreting an artwork, then making a creative response to the artwork to share with others.

  1. Select an artwork

    View the artworks and read the stories in the NGV Collection Story – Identity. Select the artwork that interests you the most in relation to the theme of identity.
    • Record the details of the artwork (artist, title, date, media, size).
    • What initially caught your interest about this artwork?
  2. Create a sketch

    Observe then record the main structure of the artwork in a quick drawing (15 minutes maximum). Focus on the overall structure or composition of the work, rather than small details. You may wish to annotate your drawing with words or notes to highlight important features.
  3. Describe and analyse the artwork
    • Describe and analyse the artwork
    • Which art elements (for example, colour, line, shape, tone, form and texture) and design principles (for example, focal point, space, rhythm, variety, unity, balance) are most important in the work and what visual effects do they create?
    • What materials and techniques are used to make the artwork? How are they used? List four steps you think the artist may have taken to make this artwork.
  4. Research the artwork
    • Identify and note at least three information sources that help your understanding of this work. Starting points may include:
      NGV Collection Stories
      Books, exhibition catalogues or art journals from your school, or public librarywebsites
    • List five interesting facts that you learned from your research and explain what each has added to your understanding of this work.
  5. Interpret
    • What feelings, moods, ideas or meanings does the artist communicate to you through the artwork?
    • What is it about the artwork that suggests these feelings, moods or ideas?
    • Explain the connection you see between this artwork and the theme of identity.
  6. View the original

    Visit the National Gallery of Victoria to view the original artwork (check first that it is currently on display). How is the artwork similar/different to how you imagined it from the reproduction?
  7. A creative presentation

    Produce a short creative presentation about this artwork for your classmates (three minutes maximum). Your presentation should include at least five researched facts about the work. It should also aim to be lively and engaging. It may comprise or include:
    • A role play – for example the artist making the work, an art critic or tour guide explaining the work
    • An art review for the radio or the newspaper, or a poem or narrative, which might be presented dramatically as a reading
    • An art review or documentary-style presentation for TV or online media, which might be presented as a short video
    • A dance or musical performance, or poem inspired by the artwork
    • A visual/audio presentation (for example, PowerPoint, VoiceThread), which includes relevant background information about the artist or artwork
    • A computer game or animation that brings the artwork ‘alive’

Comparative viewpoints

  1. View the artworks and read the entries in the NGV Collection Story – Identity.
    • Identify two artworks that you believe make an interesting comparison in how they express or suggest ideas about identity. (For example, an historical and a contemporary artwork that each express a view about national identity or two contemporary artworks that each express a view about personal identity.)
    • Record the details of each artwork (artist, title, date, media, size).
  2. What ideas does each artwork communicate about identity? How are these ideas communicated in each artwork?
  3. Explain why you believe these artworks make an interesting comparison in how they express or suggest ideas about identity.

Shearing the rams 1890
oil on canvas on composition board
122.4 x 183.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1932


An exploration of identity, including historical and contemporary perspectives on national, cultural and personal identity in Australian art.

Go to Identity stories
Psychogeography (1996); (1998) {printed}
from the Psycho series 1996, in The mutant genome project 1994-
type C photograph
120.6 x 258.4 cm (image) 126.9 x 278.8 cm (sheet)
ed. 1/6
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Optus Communications Pty Limited, Member, 1998
© Courtesy of the artist

Landscape and environment

Australian artists explore, observe and respond to the landscape and nature, recording both the environment and our relationship with it.

Go to Landscape and environment stories
William Barak
Figures in possum skin cloaks 1898
pencil, wash, charcoal solution, gouache and earth pigments on paper
57.0 x 88.8 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1962


Land of the Wurundjeri and the making of Melbourne, from marvellous to modern, told by the NGV Collection of Australian art.

Go to Melbourne stories