Students are best in show
"...my art would be displayed in the NGV, which encouraged me to realise that perhaps what I have creatively is something truly special and different," says Harriet Renn ('15)
The Age Business Day Online Saturday 25 June 2016:
Imagine the thrill felt by artists whose works are displayed at the prestigious National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Now imagine the thrill felt by those artists who are still in their teens.
StArt Up: Top Arts 2016, an annual exhibition celebrating the finest of VCE Art and Studio Arts is on display every day until July 10 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Admission is free.
Brigid Weereratne, who has been teaching art at St Catherine’s School, Toorak for 28 years, has seen many of her students’ works chosen for the exhibition.
“Many artists would love to have their work exhibited at the NGV, a gallery with an international standard of excellence, and these students are being given a wonderful opportunity to showcase their talents to such a wide audience,” she says.
“Having your artworks selected for Top Arts acknowledges the artistic process that these students work through during Year 12, the hours of work in and out of the studio, the presentation of their ideas to a wider audience and the excellence and standard of work achieved,” Weereratne says.
Forty-two works by Victoria’s best emerging young artists have been chosen from 2,500 submissions for this exhibition, including Weereratne’s student, Harriet Renn.
“The two artworks by Harriet featured in this year’s Top Arts are oil on plywood,” Weereratne says. “The images presented in Top Arts were developed from her own reference photographs, taken on and off a Metro train, with the subject matter staring into the carriage and directly at the viewer out the window.
“Her excellent painting technique has created a photo-realistic interpretation, however on closer inspection you can see her fine expressive brushwork, created using a very small brush. The size of the works was important to Harriet, creating an intimate setting for the communication of her ideas about the human condition and how we are connected by everyday interaction as on public transport.” Renn says the works themselves became “a sort of contemplation”.
“Being selected meant having those contemplations acknowledged, appreciated, understood and then shared to so many people… an incredible feeling,” she says. “This was the part I found to be the greatest achievement of being selected for the Top Arts exhibition, in hand with the fact that my art would be displayed in the NGV, which encouraged me to realise that perhaps what I have creatively is something truly special and different.” Renn’s advice to other students facing the VCE this year is to “get lost in the work, indulge in it, do what you love”.
Weereratne says teachers can best support their students to participate successfully in Top Arts and other exhibitions by allowing them to explore individual and creative ideas.
“What I find when working with my students is a need to ‘own’ what they create and that the artworks are completely their own,” she says. “There are many opportunities for students to participate in exhibitions and art prizes, they just need to be passionate and dedicated enough to make the effort to complete an application form. Some further encouragement from the teachers also goes a long way.”