Interview with StArt Up: Top Arts 2016 artist Emma Ferris

What has the highlight been of Top Arts 2016?
The highlight of Top Arts thus far has been hearing and learning about the other exhibiting artists and their artworks. It’s really exciting to see what other people have created, and discover the various stories and meanings hidden behind each artwork. It’s also fascinating to see how diverse the exhibition is in terms of the range of styles, mediums and subjects on display. 

Do you plan to pursue a career in creative industries?
Whilst I am not currently planning to pursue a career in fine art or design, I am hoping to end up in a creative field. I have a passion for creative writing, film and photography and hope to one day combine these disciplines in a career as a screenwriter. For now, I’m off to study Arts at Melbourne University in 2017 after my Gap year travels. After that, who knows!

Who are your favourite artists at the moment?
I have two favourite artists at the moment. The first is Ai Weiwei. I saw his artworks a month or so ago at the current exhibition at the NGV and have since kept an eye on his controversial and thought provoking blog. I find Ai’s sharp focus on political issues to be inspiring and often fascinating. I particularly admire his current installation piece in Berlin which aims to draw attention to the plight of European refugees. I also love his more whimsical, light hearted works, such as the series of cat drawings he sketched for the NGV exhibition – utterly adorable. Aside from Ai, my other favourite artist at the moment would have to be cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. His crisp, powerful landscapes, shot predominantly in the brilliant light of sunrise and sunset have a faintly haunting quality which I find visually stunning. I also envy his masterful control of natural light, which was especially impressive in his recent work on “The Revenant”. 

What you learnt from the process of Top Arts 2016?
The process of Top Arts 2016 taught me a lot about organisation and time management. My final artwork was very time intensive, involving many hours in the art room spent waiting for the slow setting resin pieces to dry. I quickly learnt to organise my time effectively so that I wasn’t wasting class time on work I could easily complete during lunch or before school. I also learnt to prize holidays – not only for the respite from classes, but also for the time they provided for photoshoots and editing. 

What would you do differently if you were to do your VCE folio again?
If I were given the chance to redo my VCE folio, I would probably have spent more time in the trial stages of my folio experimenting with resin. During my work for my final I ran into lots of difficulties trying to ascertain the correct setting consistency, which wasted quite a lot of time. Similarly, I also ran into problems with the moulds I was using. During work on my final piece I quickly discovered the moulds I had became dull after 2-3 uses – definitely not ideal when needing to create 20 resin domes. A few more days of trial work towards the start of the year would probably have saved me weeks later on.

Have you been working on any creative projects since your work was accepted into Top Arts?
Getting into Top Arts inspired me to pick up my camera and throw myself back into photography. In the past few months I have been learning how to record star trails in the night sky using long exposure techniques. I hope to eventually collate these starry night images into a time lapse stretching over a lunar cycle. I dabbled a bit with long exposure work in one of my other final pieces for Studio Arts last year and am really enjoying taking the technique and experimenting with it in a slightly different way.

What advice would you give students going into Year 12, in how to prepare for Art or Studio Art?
One piece of advice that I would have loved to have heard when I started year 12 VCE Studio Arts is: approach the subject with an open mind and with an eagerness to experiment. It’s tempting to play it safe when selecting mediums and undertaking trial work, but being too cautious can be really limiting. I would advise anyone starting off on their folio this year to dabble with a manageable, but broad range of styles, mediums and techniques so that they have a great range of experience to draw on for their final pieces. I know that if I had not experimented early on, and decided, on a whim, to include resin casting in my trial work, I would definitely not have my artwork here in the exhibition today.

Do you have any reflections on your work from Year 12?
If there is one thing I will remember about Year 12 Studio Arts it will be the freedom I experienced in the classroom. Art is one of the few subjects where you are allowed to let your mind and creativity run wild, and in a school year where everything seems so strictly regimented and planned out, those hours focussed on your own dreams and thoughts are precious. Yes, there were disappointments and disasters (more than once I was totally convinced that I had completely stuffed up one of my finals), but these are not the main things that come to mind when I reflect upon my work from Year 12. What I remember most is the blissful feeling of walking into the art room and settling down to work, my mind finally free of thoughts of SACs and homework, and filled with exciting ideas, concepts and plans.

Emma Ferris Marble memories 2015 Lauriston Girls’ School, Armadale