Clare Platt<br/>
<em>Green and purple alien swamp</em> 2021<br/>
inkjet print<br/>
68.0 x 109.0 cm (sheet)<br/>
Presbyterian Ladies College Melbourne, Burwood<br/>
© Clare Platt<br/>

Top Arts 2022


Held annually, and now in its twenty-eighth year, Top Arts celebrates the artistic dynamism and achievements of young Victorian artists. As part of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s (VCAA) Season of Excellence, Top Arts 2022 presents exceptional works from students who have completed VCE Art and VCE Studio Arts at metropolitan and regional schools across the state.

This year, more than 1300 submissions were reviewed by a selection panel comprising: Deryck Greenwood, VCAA State Reviewer for VCE Art; Giuliana D’Angelo, VCAA State Reviewer for VCE Studio Arts; Rachel Castricum, VCAA Regional Representative; and David Menzies, NGV Top Arts Co-curator and Educator. Forty-seven works were selected based on key criteria, including the development and resolution of concepts and ideas, technical excellence, aesthetic considerations, individuality and innovation.

The students of 2021 undertook their VCE studies against a backdrop of an ongoing global pandemic with the many challenges and uncertainties it entailed. For most Victorian students, it was the second year of extended periods of lockdown, with remote learning and restricted access to materials, workspace, teachers and peers. It was a tough year, and demanded resilience, flexibility and perseverance from students. Considering the difficulties faced, the achievements of Top Arts 2022 exhibitors are even more extraordinary.

In both VCE Art and Studio Arts, students were required to undertake an extended exploration of a theme or idea, providing the opportunity for focused reflection and expression. This year, the effects of the pandemic, including the stress of isolation on mental health and relationships, the weight of anxiety and loss, and a greater focus on home, health and values, are evident themes in the works made by exhibiting students, as too are works full of joyful creativity and imagination that celebrate the process of art-making.

In Top Arts 2022, several overarching themes emerged: identity, the passing of time, connecting with nature, home and sanctuary, and social justice and values – questioning what ‘a good life’ might mean for all of us.

Passing time

Reflections on the passing of time shaped the work of a number of artists.

In Exploring the night market, Jane Siew fondly remembers a childhood growing up in Malaysia. Eve Selsick’s Departure of childhood and Morgandy Walker’s Adulthood’s remorse both confront feelings about growing up and change: Selsick recreates her bedroom in miniature, abandoned; and Walker evokes nostalgia for times past in her detailed rendering of weathered hands cradling a worn teddy bear.

Jane Siew<br/>
<em>Exploring the night market</em> 2021<br/>
gouache on paper<br/>
30.0 x 42.0 cm (sheet)<br/>
Glen Waverley Secondary College, Glen Waverley<br/>
&copy; Jane Siew<br/>

Eve Selsick<br/>
<em>Departure of childhood</em> 2021<br/>
cardboard, wood, synthetic polymer paint, fabric, eyeshadow, ink, paper, plastic, found objects<br/>
28.5 x 41.0 x 45.0 cm<br/>
Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Southbank<br/>
&copy; Eve Selsick<br/>

Morgandy Walker<br/>
<em>Adulthood&rsquo;s remorse</em> 2021<br/>
58.0 x 31.5 cm<br/>
McClelland College, Frankston<br/>
&copy; Morgandy Walker<br/>

Home and sanctuary

Enforced time at home during lockdowns gave students a different view of their home environment. In Present: Domesticity, Zara Long observes the changes in the rooms of her house as time passes, capturing views and details of the spaces in a series of ballpoint pen drawings on dyed paper.

Zara Long<br/>
<em>Present: Domesticity</em> 2021<br/>
ballpoint pen on paper<br/>
(1) 29.5 x 20.0 cm (2) 29.5 x 20.0 cm (3) 29.5 x 20.0 cm (4) 29.5 x 20.0 cm<br/>
Bendigo Senior Secondary College, Bendigo<br/>
&copy; Zara Long<br/>

In Home sick, Lily Cockram depicts the tension between siblings stuck at home: one railing against confinement and resenting the loss of freedoms, while the other seeks opportunities for creative fun.

Lily Cockram<br/>
<em>Home sick</em> 2021<br/>
gouache on plywood<br/>
30.5 x 30.5 cm<br/>
Oberon High School, Armstrong Creek<br/>
&copy; Lily Cockram<br/>

Madison Jeffares considers other spaces in which we might find sanctuary from life’s pressures. In Greek mythology, Soteria is the goddess of safety and salvation, deliverance and preservation from harm. Soteria’s garden shows a sublime landscape where figures are free to explore and restore, in harmony with nature, sheltered from everyday concerns.

Madison Jeffares<br/>
<em>Soteria&rsquo;s garden</em> 2021<br/>
photogravure on paper<br/>
45.0 x 65.0 cm (sheet)<br/>
Caulfield Grammar School, Caulfield<br/>
&copy; Madison Jeffares<br/>

In contrast, for Kellie Palatino home is a horror show. In It’s alive! she stages a wildly imaginative scene of bathroom carnage. Suckered tentacles burst through the filthy bath and floor. Mundane reality is shattered by the intrusion of a monster. The destruction is so complete that a return to normality is out of the question.

Kellie Palatino<br/>
<em>It&rsquo;s alive!</em> 2021<br/>
wire mesh, air-dried modelling clay, synthetic polymer paint, cardboard, watercolour, glass, dirt, gloss varnish<br/>
46.0 x 50.0 x 33.0 cm<br/>
Kilbreda College, Mentone<br/>
&copy; Kellie Palatino<br/>

Identity and reflection

Many exhibitors focused their works on personal identity, reflecting on gender, struggles with mental health and connections with friends and family.

Arthur Foulkes’s giant triptych A party in the closet, for example, addresses gender stereotypes, calling out toxic male behaviours. Jordyn Bower vividly portrays feelings of drowning and suffocation in her work Unattainable series, while Lucy Franich’s An attempt at self analysis and Can’t catch me depict her struggles with ADHD, shown in the form of a rabbit, and the difficulty of escaping other people’s preconceptions.

Lucy Franich<br/>
<em>An attempt at self analysis</em> 2021<br/>
oil on plywood<br/>
71.0 x 53.0 cm<br/>
Star of the Sea College, Brighton<br/>
&copy; Lucy Franich<br/>

Arthur Foulkes<br/>
<em>A party in the closet</em> 2021<br/>
oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas<br/>
153.0 x 61.0 cm<br/>
Belmont High School, Geelong<br/>
&copy; Arthur Foulkes<br/>

Playing on the phrase ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’, Milla Freeman’s delicate portraits, All that we cannot see, painted on linen book covers, explore the public and private selves of her friends, suggesting their more elusive aspects through the sections left unpainted.

Milla Freeman<br/>
<em>Internal portrait</em> 2021<br/>
synthetic polymer paint and thread<br/>
56.0 x 35.0 cm<br/>
Northcote High School, Northcote<br/>
&copy; Milla Freeman<br/>

A good life

A number of Top Arts exhibitors grappled with issues around social justice and values, and what it means to live a good life. What do we value? How might we live better?

Liana Kelemen’s film work Businessman comments on the corporate world’s pursuit of profit at the expense of people and environment. These sentiments are echoed in Sandra Gibbins’s enormous linoprint Greed, which examines the true cost of our appetite for fast fashion and profit. Further, India Wallace’s installation $12,594.40 addresses the issue of the gender pay gap, with the work’s title referring to the difference in average pay between men and women.

Liana Kelemen<br/>
<em>Businessman</em> 2021<br/>
colour digital video, sound<br/>
7 min 9 sec<br/>
McKinnon Secondary College, McKinnon<br/>
&copy; Liana Kelemen<br/>

Sandra Gibbins<br/>
<em>Greed </em>2021<br/>
linocut on calico<br/>
116.0 x 104.0 cm (sheet)<br/>
Mary MacKillop Catholic Regional College, Leongatha<br/>
&copy; Sandra Gibbins<br/>

India Wallace<br/>
<em>$12,594.40</em> 2021<br/>
resin, powdered pigment, synthetic polymer paint, found objects<br/>
99.0 x 150.0 x 110.0 cm<br/>
Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School, Ivanhoe<br/>
&copy; India Wallace<br/>

Connecting with nature

For others, the restorative power of nature was a deep source of inspiration. Trinity Flett’s Chrysalis is a garden sanctuary created with wool and beads inside a hanging pod. Viewers are invited to look closely to discover the hidden details and emerge transformed.

Clare Platt transports us to a landscape on another world in Green and purple alien swamp. Thick jungle and mangroves are part of an ecosystem of carefully considered life forms.

Olivia Watson’s Water’s journey articulates the story of the creek that she visited daily during lockdown. In layers of imagery, coloured with local plant dyes and soil, she builds a record of and connection to the landscape her mother and grandfather also played in as children.

Trinity Flett<br/>
<em>Chrysalis</em> 2021<br/>
wool, silk, mohair and synthetic yarn, lace, beads, rope, cotton, embroidery thread, watercolour<br/>
120.0 x 100.0 x 85.0 cm<br/>
The University High School, Parkville<br/>
&copy; Trinity Flett<br/>

Clare Platt<br/>
<em>Green and purple alien swamp</em> 2021<br/>
inkjet print<br/>
68.0 x 109.0 cm (sheet)<br/>
Presbyterian Ladies College Melbourne, Burwood<br/>
&copy; Clare Platt<br/>

Olivia Wilson<br/>
<em>Water&rsquo;s journey</em> 2021<br/>
eco-print, synthetic polymer paint, watercolour, charcoal, mud, pencil, ink<br/>
70.0 x 228.0 cm<br/>
Donvale Christian College, Donvale<br/>
&copy; Olivia Wilson<br/>

More information about the inspiration and ideas behind each work can be found on the Top Arts exhibition website, along with student interviews and selected folios, which have been annotated by the State Reviewers for VCE Art and Studio Arts to highlight best practice.

Every year Top Arts provides a platform for young people to express their diverse ideas and beliefs, offering inspiration to the many students, teachers and members of the public who visit the exhibition and take part in Top Arts programs. The NGV is delighted to showcase the works of Top Arts 2022 as part of its continuing commitment to young artists and art education.