Emma Tripp    <br/>
<em>Bigger picture</em> 2022 <br/>
synthetic polymer paint on plywood  <br/>
175.1 x 326.4 cm  <br/>
Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School, Ivanhoe     <br/>
© Emma Tripp<br/>

Top Arts 2023


Now in its twenty-ninth year, Top Arts, an annual exhibition presented as part of the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s Season of Excellence, presents outstanding work from students – a glimpse into the minds and hearts of young creatives, who excelled in their VCE art studies in 2022.

Free from the restrictions of lockdown, this year’s cohort enjoyed the return to consistent onsite learning, which enabled them greater access to art equipment and materials, the benefit of in-person feedback from peers and teachers, as well as the opportunity to engage with other people – family, friends, members of the community – in the development of their artworks.

For Top Arts 2023, forty-four works from thirty-eight students feature – chosen by the exhibition’s selection panel who considered submissions from a field of more than 1400 applications. The panel looked for works that were fully developed or resolved in their ideas, original and innovative, and those that displayed technical excellence, or a thoughtful consideration of aesthetics.

This year, four encompassing themes emerged: ‘expression’ (in relation to identity, gender, social agency or philosophy); ‘relationships’ (between people, places, symbols or ideas); ideas of ‘beauty/ugliness’; and ‘nature’ (exploring its force, wonder and creativity).


In Top Arts 2023, many exhibitors explore ideas about self-image and gender, as well as their political or philosophical concerns. Questions about how we express ourselves, what we reveal or conceal, and the role of society in all of this, are conveyed in a range of mediums, including photography, painting and textile-making.

Eden Muster   <br/>
<em>Furry human</em> 2022 <br/>
synthetic fur, satin, craft foam <br/>
(1) 85.0 cm (centre back), 67.0 cm (sleeve length) (coat) <br/>
(2) 19.0 x 25.0 x 27.0 cm (hat) <br/>
Mildura Senior College, Mildura         <br/>
&copy; Eden Muster<br/>

With his childlike and imaginative costumes, Eden Muster indulges in the playfulness of childhood, while Ginger Dewar’s large photographic works describe how fashion helps her conceal and reveal aspects of her identity. Emma Tripp’s and Lilith Pett’s paintings metaphorically represent the tension between the expression and repression of sexuality, while Casper Plum Bergman Carthew’s images of boxers present a heroic archetype to empower young trans people. In Minh Dang’s striking portrait of his friend, Dang acknowledges the sorrow of people facing discrimination on the basis of their sexuality.

Emma Tripp    <br/>
<em>Bigger picture</em> 2022 <br/>
synthetic polymer paint on plywood  <br/>
175.1 x 326.4 cm  <br/>
Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School, Ivanhoe     <br/>
&copy; Emma Tripp<br/>

Casper Plum Bergman Carthew<br/>
<em>Hard yards</em> 2022<br/>
inkjet print<br/>
(1-2) 58.3 x 36.0 cm (image and sheet) (each)<br/>
Fitzroy High School, Fitzroy North<br/>
&copy; Casper Plum Bergman Carthew<br/>

Milo Strangio documents the passion of pro-choice rallies and honours collective expression as a force for change and empowerment. Arthur Foulkes’s vessels are illustrated with ideas about individual and collective expression. He simultaneously pays tribute to the great works of humanity, while at the same time signals the dangers of hubris and consumerism.

Milo Strangio    <br/>
<em>&ldquo;Sown&rdquo; liberties</em> 2022 <br/>
inkjet print on board, wood, concrete <br/>
118 x 86 cm <br/>
Fitzroy High School, Fitzroy North     <br/>
&copy; Milo Strangio<br/>


Drawing from a range of media, Top Arts exhibitors also communicate layered ideas about relationships: between people, domestic and public spaces, symbols and ideas, and tradition and contemporary life.

Appropriating Pablo Picasso’s A frugal repast, 1904, Rufus Punton expresses ideas about his grandparents’ long and loving relationship. Hugo Martin highlights the strong connections between family members across multiple generations in his mixed media work.

Rufus Punton <br/>
<em>Eventide &ndash; homage to Picasso</em> 2022 <br/>
etching, spit biting and aquatint <br/>
54.6 x 39.8 cm (plate), 69.6 x 54.0 cm (sheet) <br/>
Portland Secondary College, Portland        <br/>
&copy; Rufus Punton<br/>

Elsewhere, the relationship between people and space is examined. Mae Czechowski seeks to redefine her relationship with urban spaces through her poetic use of concrete. Harper Reilly discreetly films the morning rituals in three family homes to reveal a relationship between private and public life. Michael Fisher arranges a sequence of increasingly useless jugs to describe the ‘unhomely’ or unsettling feeling when the familiar becomes strange.

Harper Reilly  <br/>
<em>Morning hallways</em> 2022 (still)<br/>
colour digital video  <br/>
12 min, 19 sec <br/>
Camberwell High School, Canterbury        <br/>
&copy; Harper Reilly<br/>

Some exhibitors dismantle commonly understood associations between symbols and ideas to create new meaning. After interrogating traditional systems of representing language, Miranda Plowman builds her own visual system from scratch. Keira Davis takes inspiration from American photographer and essayist Susan Sontag – to question the relationship between photography and reality.

Miranda Plowman <br/>
<em>Language is here</em> 2022 <br/>
enamel paint on 3D-printed plastic, inkjet print on paper on canvas  <br/>
(1-4) 10.3 x 48 x 10.3 cm (overall) (blocks) (5) 62.0 x 60.0 (variable) (jacket) <br/>
Virtual School Victoria, Thornbury        <br/>
&copy; Miranda Plowman<br/>

In Minnie Morley’s photorealistic pencil drawing, she juxtaposes outdated patriarchal symbols to create a new, authentic vision of femininity. Engaging with the complex relationship between Chinese spiritual tradition and contemporary life, Jevons Wang constructs a sculpture layered with symbolic meaning.

Jevons Wang  <br/>
<em>Where your faith lies</em> 2022 <br/>
plywood, polymethyl methacrylate, transparent synthetic polymer resin, synthetic polymer paint, synthetic polymer clay, air-dried modelling clay, wood, paper <br/>
44.4 x 34 x 29 cm <br/>
Mentone Grammar, Mentone   <br/>
&copy; Jevons Wang<br/>


Other exhibitors explore their understanding of beauty, deconstructing the concept and challenging us to see it in unlikely places.

Jack Snow-Viener’s visceral photographic work explores the line between the grotesque and beautiful, while Elio Ongarato communicates the violent beauty and ‘seductive’ forms of car crashes.

By casting rubbish in plaster and coating it in gloss, Josef Arpula invites us to reconsider its aesthetic appeal, while Amy Seymour produces an angular cement bust to express her love of brutalist aesthetics.

Josef Arpula <br/>
<em>Rubbish garbage waste</em> 2022 <br/>
enamel paint on plaster, plaster <br/>
(1) 5.0 x 29.5 x 20.0 cm (tray) (2) 20.0 x 37.5 x 32.5 cm (box) (3) 17.0 x 35.5 x 33.5 cm (bin big) (4) 10.0 x 25.0 x 24.0 cm (bin black) (5) 12.5 x 26.5 x 24.5 cm (bin pink) (6) 5.0 x 23.5 x 13.0 cm (glove) (7) 1.7 x 19.5 x 13.0 cm (bubble wrap) (8) 13.5 x 5.5 cm diameter (can) (9) 12.0 x 8.5 cm diameter (coffee cup) (10) 2.0 x 23.0 x 19.0 cm (al foil) (11) 3.3 x 33.6 x 15.0 cm (inflatable thing) (12) (bottle caps) (13) 20.0 x 22.5 x 10.5 cm (bottle) <br/>
Swinburne Senior Secondary College, Hawthorn  <br/>
&copy; Josef Arpula<br/>

Polly Hutchins’s photographs starkly illuminated bus stops reminds us that there is poetry and as she terms it ‘madness in the mundane’, while Kean Ngooi animates a glowing city of the future, relishing in every detail of his dystopian world.

Polly Hutchins   <br/>
<em>Terminus</em> 2022 <br/>
inkjet print on gloss paper, fluorescent light <br/>
55.0 x 135.0 cm (framed)  <br/>
Padua College, Mornington      <br/>
&copy; Polly Hutchins<br/>

In some instances, the aesthetic beauty of artworks is tempered by confronting subject matter. In the desolate gothic beauty of Celeste Yun Hang’s painting is a warning about the death of human agency, in an age of artificial intelligence. Bailey Florence’s monstruous urban highway, though beautifully rendered in pen, expresses the ugliness of profit-seeking urban planning.

Celeste Yun Hang  <br/>
<em>The last you</em> 2022 <br/>
oil on plywood <br/>
101.6 x 152.3 cm <br/>
Firbank Grammar School, Brighton   <br/>
&copy; Celeste Yun Hang<br/>

Forces of nature 

The beauty and energy of nature, its creative and destructive force and its role in cultural tradition was also an influence on the work of exhibitors.

With the permission of Anangu elders, Grace Kennedy photographed the timeless topographies of Kata Tjuta and Uluru, while Emma Murphy produced an abstract ceramic work to evoke the limitlessness and freedom of the skies.

Grace Kennedy   <br/>
<em>Landscapes and landforms</em> 2022 <br/>
inkjet print <br/>
(1-9) 42.0 x 59.3 cm (sheet) (each) <br/>
Caulfield Grammar School, St Kilda       <br/>
&copy; Grace Kennedy<br/>

Some works are charged with a natural creative energy. Inspired by the forests surrounding her home, Kelly Hirschmann calls on nature’s ‘spirit’ to guide her engraving and drawing technique. Nicole Zhao submits to an intuitive and natural form of mark-making to produce her monoprints.

The destructive and creative forces of nature are apparent in other works, too. Beth Pert uses the language of dance to describe the dangerous spread of invisible toxins. Jya Ruby-Nation animates her character Banksia Man – a character inspired by the experience of witnessing the 2019 bushfires – to symbolise the cycles of destruction and renewal in nature and human society.

Beth Pert <br/>
<em>Mycotoxins</em> 2022 <br/>
charcoal powder on paper, colour digital projection, sound <br/>
(1) 450.0 cm x 114.0 cm (2) 2 min, 35 sec <br/>
Melbourne Girls College, Richmond         <br/>
&copy; Beth Pert<br/>

Jya-Ruby Nation  <br/>
<em>Record breaking</em> 2022 <br/>
colour digital animation, sound <br/>
1 min 22 sec  <br/>
Mallacoota P12 College, Mallacoota         <br/>
&copy; Jya-Ruby Nation<br/>

For some, nature provides a way to connect with cultural heritage and family. By learning traditional weaving, Jasmine Glass connects to a long lineage of Aboriginal women who crafted woven objects from natural fibres. Lola Vincent, through her adventurous use of soil as a primary medium, connects to the earth and the agricultural labours of her Irish ancestry.

Jasmine Glass   <br/>
<em>Women weaving</em> 2022 <br/>
raffia <br/>
60.5 cm diameter (woven circle), 238 .0 x 260 .0 cm (variable) (overall) <br/>
St Catherine&rsquo;s School, Toorak     <br/>
&copy; Jasmine Glass<br/>

Further information about the ideas and inspiration behind each of the exhibitors’ works can be found on the Top Arts exhibition website, where you will also discover artist interviews, examples of students’ folio pages, and teacher and student programs.

The NGV is delighted to present Top Arts 2023, as part of the Gallery’s ongoing commitment to contemporary art and arts education, and is proud to provide a forum for young people to showcase their creative talents.