As the VCAA State Reviewer for VCE Art, I am a member of the Top Arts selection panel, along with Katherine Smith, the State Reviewer for Studio Arts, Colin McLeod-Smith, VCAA Regional Representative, and Michele Stockley, Ingrid Wood and Beckett Rozentals from the NGV. As a panel, we are looking for art pieces that have an interesting conceptual focus, use visual language in an exciting manner and display the technical skills relevant to the particular media in which the students have selected to work. It is important that each initial application contains good quality photographs and a clear explanation of the student’s direction or theme so that the panel can make an informed decision about whether to short-list the work.
Whilst we all participate in the short-listing and final selection processes, Katherine and I have a specific role to play in ensuring that all folios meet the requirements of the respective Study Designs to a high or very high standard. I’m always amazed at the variety of approaches that students take and at the exciting and dynamic manner in which they structure their folios. There is no one formula for a successful folio and it is gratifying to be able to gain an insight into each student’s personal journey.
In the initial stages of the Art folio, each student’s personal exploration focuses on both a conceptual and practical investigation of themes, directions and/or ideas. They may use inspirations from their own experiences, particular artists whose work interests them, aspects of past or present cultural contexts and/or contemporary issues or ideas. Students may also undertake research, create lists or concept/mind maps of possible directions, complete drawings, sketches or designs and collect visual images.
In taking their initial thinking further, students begin to develop their ideas through a series of trials, including focusing on specific elements & principles of art, style, use of materials and experimentation with techniques and processes. Importantly, these trials and experiments must be relevant to the concepts with which students are working and demonstrate ongoing progress.
After comprehensively developing their thinking and working processes, students begin to consolidate and refine their work, leading to the production of at least two final pieces. This refining process includes decision-making in regards to visual language, aesthetics, and conceptual thinking. Students plan their final artworks and document their working methods. They also critically evaluate the entire folio process, including the resolved artworks. These artworks must demonstrate innovative ideas, strong use of visual language and skillful application of materials and techniques.
Throughout the VCE Art folio, students reflect upon their thinking with annotations that use the language of the Analytical Frameworks. These frameworks (Formal, Personal, Cultural and Contemporary) must be clearly and consistently identified in the annotations.
After the panel has made its final selections, the work is handed over to the NGV and the process of designing the exhibition begins. I anxiously await the opening night of the exhibition, which is always a joyful occasion. I love seeing the pride and excitement on the faces of students and their families as they celebrate their achievements.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as part of the selection panel and have benefitted greatly in my own personal and professional learning. Top Arts is a wonderful program and the exhibition itself should be seen by everyone!
VCAA State Reviewer for VCE Art