Top Arts 2013 presents the outstanding work of 2012 VCE Art and Studio Arts students. Each student is profiled in a fresh magazine-style publication, with vibrant commentaries on the students’ practice from author Ronnie Scott. Ronnie is a Melbourne-based author and contributor to The Believer, Meanjin, Dumbo Feather, Lucky Peach and many other journals and magazines.
We asked Ronnie a few questions about his experience working on the Top Arts 2013 publication and his advice for young writers.
1. Can you tell us about the process of authoring this publication?
My job was really to figure out each student’s story. It’s interesting to hear about processes. My favourite part of the process was trawling through the minute details of what went into each artwork because the artists had usually tried so many ideas before they landed on something that worked.
When you’re writing about these processes, you really need to hang them off a story. I needed to figure out what each artist wanted – their motivation -– and show how the quest to make an ideal artwork was really a quest to answer some deeper, more personal question. It helped that the artists were so articulate about why they were making this art; they’d clearly spent a tonne of time hunting around within themselves.
2. What surprised you about the students’ work?
I wasn’t surprised by the depth of engagement or the variety of the ideas I encountered – teenagers are brilliant thinkers, which we know. What absolutely blew me out of the water was the advanced SKILL on display, the raw technical firepower. Since when can people paint like that before they’re 50? It’s criminal.
3. Do you have a favourite work of art in the publication? Which artists do you think are worth keeping an eye on?
My personal favourite was Michelle Zhong, because I have a soft spot for line drawings. At The Lifted Brow, where I was Editor and Publisher for five years and nowadays am Art Editor, most of my job involves commissioning line art – so I see a lot of great stuff, but a lot of average stuff too.
Michelle has a great philosophy underpinning her practice; ultimately, she just wants to entertain herself with whatever she draws. Somehow the free play has led her to create these incredibly rigorous works, with lots of little motifs – like a personal mythology – strung through.
4. Do you have any advice for students who wish to become writers?
There’s only so much you can teach someone who isn’t writing every day – it has to be regular and you have to be producing a lot of it. You get a better grip on sentences the more you use them. Raw experience is the most important thing.
The Top Arts 2013 publication is available in the NGV Shop for $19.95
Visit the Top Arts 2013 exhibition page for more information.