By Laura Green
“Once again, we have a unique opportunity to observe how young people view, interpret, and engage with our contemporary world and hope that their future creative pursuits will guide them through it.” – Art Gallery of Western Australia
AGWA’s annual ‘Perspectives’ exhibit celebrates the state’s young artists by showcasing the most extraordinary pieces of Year 12 Visual Arts created for their WACE practical works.
This summer’s exhibit, from January 28 to April 2, 2017, marks the 25th Anniversary of the show, which truly delivers some of the most unique and vibrant perspectives of Western Australia’s young creative minds yet.
At the entrance to the gallery, the viewer is welcomed by Amberley Bradley’s ‘Rise,’ and a number of other pieces which focus on the struggle for young people to achieve in the face of the relentless pressure of their final year of high school. It sets the tone for the dedication, talent, and persistence it took for these artworks to be so successfully executed.
The variety of artworks in Perspectives 2016 was unprecedented, and their themes – ranging from body image, to technology, to personal accounts, environmentalism, politics, culture and diversity – were dealt with maturely and fluidly by the artists.
Some works, including Maja Healy’s ‘At Sixes and Sevens’ explored familial relationships, and the sentimentality and difficulties that are inevitably involved. Healy’s portrayal of her grandfather used impasto textures, colour and line to communicate depth of expression, and the larger-than-life size of the canvas that really encapsulated a composition that “alludes to the state of confusion felt by people who have developed and lived with [Alzheimer’s] disease for many years.”
The pieces that resonated most with me were ones that explored the artists’ personal identity and culture. While Alan Pigram’s ‘Good Place for a Barbie (After Frederick McCubbin)’ successfully captured old and emerging identities of many Australians, others like Chelsea Menmuir’s “Exposed” touched on “communities up north where culture and tradition are a big part of our lives” and wrestles with the idea of adapting to student life of boarding in the city.
Alternately, Yousef Hourani’s ‘Wahdat Al-Wujud’ – meaning ‘the unity of everything’ – takes a different approach to identity through the form of religion, stating that ‘everything comes from the same source.’ Hourani’s main piece has a traditional approach of vibrant colours, patterns, and cultural motifs, while the four smaller graphite drawings fuse traditional imagery with modern technology.
The exploration of farming culture and the part it plays in Australian history, identity, and the current economy were portrayed in wide variations. From a sentimental homage in Lara Sawyer’s Peoples’ Choice award-winning, ‘The decaying kind’ to condemnation in Evie Black’s ‘For human consumption’. Sawyer’s piece laments the “diminishing respect of the mainstream towards the agricultural industry in Australia.” Her oil portraits of farmers on rusted steel barrels communicate her sadness on the subtext of struggling farmers who are forced out of their industries due to difficulties such as lowering demand, drought, and flooding. Their relentless work and hardships they endure are seen in the lines on their faces, and the old rust marks of Sawyer’s metal canvases.
Black’s work criticises the “cruelty during cage farming in contrast to the media images of happy farm animals,” and seems to question the practices that have developed in modern agriculture. The pieces are arranged categorically, and often their positioning allows the viewer to reflect on the widely varying perspectives that the gallery has made available.
Political discussions were also widely depicted, from the US gun debate and its relation to Australian gun laws, to refugee status in Australia, and the rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Western countries. A wide range of elements ranging from ceramic sculpture to print to photography created these pieces with results that were both clever and unique.
When trying to pick my absolute favourite, it was a tie between three pieces: Eloise Greenwell’s delicate polytypich ‘Overland,’ Maja Healy’s ‘At Sixes and Sevens,’ and Melissa Clements’ ‘Study After Caravaggio’s St Jerome,’ the latter of which ultimately won my heart; it speaks to me on a personal level as a fellow artist who also finds that “perfectionism prevents us from starting”.
Part 1 depicts the “bid to realise the creative epiphany” while Part 2 lingers on the “inevitable anticlimactic aftermath” that so often plagues creative types. It was not only the deft allusion or the meaning of the work, but the scale and skill that left me in awe. The tonal play of light in the girls’ darkened room, the movement and the texture of fabric, skin, and hair, and the intriguing notes of the artist that pull the viewer’s eye around the piece. Clements has also subtly included raised objects, and lines that seem to hide beneath the surface so that her audience is forever discovering more about her piece the longer they take to appreciate it.
The gallery was overflowing with talent and stimulating ideas, and it is so fulfilling for me to see young artists being celebrated by our state gallery. I’m grateful for the exhibition and hope for its future continuation and success.
If you couldn’t make it to the Gallery then check out the AGWA Perspectives video and more images below,
AGWA Perspectives 2016 Video: https://vimeo.com/208588063
Feature Image: The decaying kind by Lara Sawyer
Photography by Laura Green