An Interview with ‘Top Arts’ exhibiting student Elliott Bolt

0 Comments 18 June 2015

“StArt Up: Top Arts 2015″ is an exhibition presenting outstanding work by students who completed VCE Arts or Studio Arts last year. One of the pieces at this year’s Top Arts is “Nostalgic Dreamscape”, a VCE Studio Arts piece by Year 12 student Elliott Bolt. We talked to him about his influences, creative process, and the balance between assessment and creativity. “StArt Up: Top Arts” is on until 28 June at the NGV.

What are the themes in “Nostalgic Dreamscape”?
My theme was built around automatic drawing. It’s something I like to do anyway, like on café napkins. So that was a lot of my folio.

On the Top Arts site, you talk about drawing inspiration from dreams and the surreal landscape. Were there any recurring motifs in your automatic drawing?
Yes. There were people’s faces, lots of things that were symbolic, architecture, and building facades. I was down at Brunswick Street when I did a lot of the automatic drawings. I really like inner city culture. There are lots of really cool galleries down there. A lot of people there are artists. You don’t encounter as many in the outer suburbs. The architecture is fantastic. I really like that kind of old, 1930s kind of architecture. The general aesthetic of it all has definitely had a big impact. I really like Shaun Tan. He’s kind of surreal and suburban. His work has a very Australian feel, and he is also into science fiction and incorporating surreal elements into his work. I’ve been a big fan of him for a long time. Surreal film and television were also a really big influence – shows like “The Mighty Boosh”, David Lynch, the Beat writers and “The Naked Lunch” – both film and book.

Do you keep a journal to record your dreams?
Yes. The two main sources of imagery in my final work were my automatic drawings and also drawing things from my dreams after I wake up. So it’s kind of like a dream journal.

You worked with linoleum, and you mentioned that the end product was very worth it, but do you think it had its limitations?
It definitely did have its limitations. If you misjudged where you were going to cut, or slipped and cut off a bit you didn’t mean to, it comes out in the final print and looks weird. Especially if you’re doing something quite detailed.

What other mediums did you experiment with before making your final product?
Quite a few, actually – watercolour, oils, a lot of pen and ink drawing and some collage.

Did you find the VCE Studio Arts course limiting and structured or really freeing?
I found it too structured. I didn’t like to have a whole folio to prepare and to work for over many weeks. I wanted to jump right in. But you had to show your preparation as it is a Unit 3/4 subject.

With the criteria for your final piece of art, did it have to have some kind of meaning, or could you just make something up for the sake of aesthetic?
The Study Design doesn’t really fit well with me. We write a Statement of Intention, and have to come up with a concept. We get a lot of freedom with that – we just have to articulate it clearly so people understand what we’re talking about. We are marked on how well our final work actually communicates that. Mine was to do with the relationship between dream imagery and the subconscious drawings. But it frustrated me that we had to adhere to some sort of aesthetic. The day the folio was due I was at school until 10 o’clock at night. I had done a whole lot of preparatory work on the aesthetic, techniques and various materials. But I hadn’t annotated any of it which was really problematic. In terms of managing stress, I would have definitely kept on top of the requirements. Doing annotations was very jarring to the process, which was why I kind of skipped over it during the first semester. It’s quite forced – articulating what you’re doing so you can be marked on it because you really can’t assess creativity any other way.

Do you think assessment of work is, to an extent, subjective?
Even with annotations, it’s still the teacher’s opinion of how well you fulfil your original idea, which is subjective to a certain extent. I’m grateful that we had the exam at the end of the year. It was a kind of mediator because there is a subjective element within the internal assessment.

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