Tough Themes

Featured in St Catherine’s News, Spring Edition, 2022:

I do not always immediately ‘get’ artworks. Contemporary art experiences can be resistant to being unpacked from an aesthetic point of view.

When considering Contemporary Art, we no longer ask ‘Is the artwork good?’ or ‘Is the work aesthetically pleasing?’ Instead, viewers consider whether art is ‘challenging’ or ‘interesting.’

This year, the major galleries are affirming the significant role of women in arts, as well as creating major exhibitions of contemporary female indigenous artists. The recent Maree Clarke (Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung) retrospective exhibition Ancestral Memories communicated delicately and gently, significant themes of affirmation and reconnection with her cultural heritage.

The Exhibition Found and Gathered, brought together Rosalie Gascoigne and Waradgerie artist, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, whose found object artworks reference traditional weaving techniques and Indigenous cultural objects.

Through exhibitions such as these we are reminded of our differing connections with nature and uncomfortably, the disposition of Indigenous people from the land.

Tough themes, beautifully handled.

At St Catherine’s School we develop bold learners who embrace discomfort and challenge. Our Art students have demonstrated this repeatedly. 2021 VCE Visual Arts students chose themes such as body image, learning disabilities, mental health, racism, homelessness, isolation, and loss.

Tough themes, beautifully handled.

Like the National Gallery of Victoria, the Arts Faculty at St Catherine’s School is committed to extending our teaching through discussions about the history, arts, reconciliation, and culture of First Nations Australians. Our Studio Arts class explored the Found and Gathered Exhibition as a starting point for exploring and researching Connelly-Northey’s perspective and ideas. Year 10 Visual Communication Design created Indigenous AFL guernseys to explore connection, racism, and identity. In Year 7 Drama students researched Indigenous perspectives, voices, and events to create dramatic responses to Indigenous-Australian politics and society.

Year 8 Music explored the song My Island Home by Christine Anu and the Warumpi Band to explore Torres Strait displacement from lands and conceptualise ‘home’ through the lens of the natural world. Our Year 8 students also had the privilege of learning from contemporary Indigenous weaver Kathy Glass, proud Gurindi, Dagoman and Wardaman Woman, from Katherine, NT and proud mother of our Boarding Captain, Jasmine.

As our Artist Educator, Kathy spent time working with students and staff. Media teacher, Ms Julia West commented, “Through Kathy, I have learnt that yarning (talking), is the way knowledge is passed on. It is how one learns what you have wished to know. We are not used to this in western culture, but it is something I will now use within my own teaching.”

Jasmine’s Year 12 artistic practice is based on contemporary weaving learnt from her mum, Kathy, as well as Jasmine’s experiences with the traditional weavers in her country. Jasmine reflected, “I am a Dagoman, Wadraman and Gurindji woman raised in Katherine, NT. I have been exploring the idea of weaving and how it connects women from many generations.” Jasmine’s work was exhibited in the VCE Art Show, held in October this year. Jasmine’s art has also been shortlisted for the prestigious Top Arts Exhibition which showcases extraordinary works of art from VCE students.

In 2022 and beyond, St Catherine’s will continue to develop curriculum that honours reconciliation. We will embrace the sharing approach to knowledge transfer through asking questions, turning up, participating, and inviting, with a genuine and unhurried purpose to be in the room, listening, participating, and learning.


Ms Vicki Marinelli

Head of Visual Arts

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