Expressing themselves through art – ARTEXPRESS

Expressing themselves through art – ARTEXPRESS
Image: James Doak Latte – art in the everyday (video still), ARTEXPRESS 2024 © the artist

Continuing a tradition that began in the mid fifties the Art Gallery of New South Wales has just announced the 50 finalists for its annual ARTEXPRESS show.

Chosen from around 8,850 submissions by 2023 HSC arts students across NSW, ARTEXPRESS is jointly managed by the NSW Department of Education and the Board of Studies NSW and coordinated by the Arts Unit, and is now one of the AGNSW’s major events.

In 2001 the show attracted 500,000 visitors making it one of the AGNSW’s most attended showings.

Past winners in the event include 2011 Archibald Prize winner Ben Quilty, Jasper Night, Bhenji Ra and Louise Zhang.

“I didn’t do well in my HSC, but I did in visual art,” Ben Quilty, artist said.

“We had to respond to works that were given to us, and one was a Miro painting and I ended making a self portrait of me looking into a mirror at the Miro.

“It as meant to be some sort of show of my confusion.”

Ben Quilty with the work he created as a teenager.CREDIT- JAMES BRICKWOOD, SMH 2014

The eleven month process of selecting the works is conducted statewide and the works are chosen from a wide range of mediums and may include any subject that is G rated.

Last year, Olivia Phoon was a Year 12 student at St Andrews Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD and was inspired by her ancestral heritage and stories uncompleted to do work on a series of paintings she titled, Hazy Recollections.

“I went through my paternal grandmother’s photo album and I chose work that I thought would work with this piece,” Olivia Phoon, artist said.

“The conceptual blur used throughout this series represents these obscured connection.

“Most of the photos were taken in Singapore, but I’m not sure as my grandmother moved around a lot.”

During her time at St Andrews Phoon was fortunate to have one art teacher in particular over a five year period.

“My teacher Mrs Salier and I had an understanding between us that’s really good,” Phoon said.

“Studying visual arts is very structured before you get to year 11 and 12 when you get the freedom and can do something that is different with mediums and ideas.”

Olivia Phoon, St Andrew’s Cathedral School, with her work ‘Hazy recollections’, photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mim Stirling

Also from an inner city college is Ben Stubbs-Goulston, who graduated from Sydney Grammar last year and is currently studying arts law at ANU and is looking at continuing his art as part of an extra curriculum activity.

“For example, for my art degree I am looking at majoring in environment in society and I am working with streetscape art, so I am looking at continuing,” Ben Stubbs-Goulston, artist said.

Stubbs-Goulston entered a series of photo media works titled Somewhere, nowhere, representing how the world may halt humanity’s innate desire to process and ascend.

“I chose to specialise in photography and my work includes a combination of Photoshop to help with the editing and the photo taken as it was,” Stubbs-Goulston said.

“I only carry a camera when I am working  on an idea.

“I didn’t own a camera until I started working with a Canon 7D, and it was my teachers’ support and dedication and their professionalism that really inspired me.”

It seems that being included in the top of the state’s Year 12 visual arts students has one common response from the winners, and that is shock at being included.

Benjamin Stubbs-Goulston, Sydney Grammar School, with his work ‘Somewhere, nowhere’, photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mim Stirling

“I was shocked at being nominated and I think that I am my own worst critic. I still look at my work and think that I should have done this or that,” Olivia Phoon said.

Phoon is now studying communications at UTS.

Stubbs-Goulston  said “I get a sense of imposter syndrome as I was in awe of a lot of kids at my school, and seeing other people’s work on the exhibition night I felt honoured to be part of something in the art world in Australia.”

“So it was — more than anything else, it was encouragement to my broader community of western Sydney that going to art school was the right idea,” Ben Quilty said.

“I looked on it as a back door into the AGNSW.”

Whether or not finalists choose a career in art after ARTEXPRESS, it plays a significant role in their evolutionary process towards new careers.

February 7 – April 21

Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road, Sydney

February 10 – April 7

Hazelhurst Arts Centre, 782 Kingsway, Gymea

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