As someone who goes every year, you can trust me when I say that Top Arts never fails to impress. Displaying the top selected work by students as part of their assessment for VCE art and studio arts, the exhibition is a great way of showcasing the young artists’ work to everyone, rather than keeping it exclusive to the selection panel.
In terms of convenience, this exhibition is the one to go to. It’s held at the same place each year, the Ian Potter Centre, and in terms of size it really isn’t a huge exhibition – perfect to drop in for an hour or so. Oh, and it’s free. Yet another reason to check it out.
But what really sets Top Arts apart from most other events included into the VCE Season of Excellence is that, unlike Top Acts for example, it isn’t limited to the purpose of inspiring or informing current VCE arts students. It’s capable of appealing to audiences of every age. In an hour alone, I noticed elderly couples, mothers with their children, a few twenty-somethings as well as whole families silently (well, with the exception of the children) appreciating this art that teenagers had created.
That being said, there are several floor talks held on certain dates where Top Arts exhibitors discuss their artwork and VCE experience. This allows VCE students to gain more insight into the process of developing and enhancing their folios.
Another great aspect of the exhibition is the variety. A wide range of art forms are selected: paintings, sculptures, collages, lino cuts, textiles, as well as charcoal and pencil drawings. The list expands every year as students continue to experiment with diverse materials. Every different art form adds a new dimension to the exhibition and the viewer’s experience, although I am always a little disappointed when it comes to the inkjet prints – digitally manipulated images. Even though the photography is always of a high standard, it just doesn’t reflect the effort put into the art as effectively as a massive lino cut or a detailed pencil portrait that would have taken hours and hours to perfect.
There are works demonstrating the suffering of orangutans, poverty, and our society’s obsession with technology, as well as the themes that show up every year: teen depression and global warming. Although the themes presented are perceptive and interesting, I do have one complaint: why does almost all the art selected have a negative subject matter? I understand that the VCE selection criteria requires the art to have a strong, thought provoking topic, but surely it isn’t impossible to impress the selection panel with artwork that doesn’t focus on the flaws of our modern world? There are just as many positive themes which hold depth, meaning and insight as there are negative, and I’d really like to see more of them in Top Arts. Then again, every piece in the exhibition deserves to be there, and reveals remarkable talent no matter what the theme is.
The exhibition is definitely worth seeing, and if you do happen to go, don’t forget to vote for your favourite artwork on your way out.
Top Arts is now on at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia until 19 June.