This week in the galleries, we’ve gone back to school. In the past week the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), Monash School of Art Design and Architecture (MADA) and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology School of Art (RMIT) have each opened end-of-year graduation exhibitions, showing work by some of the country’s youngest and most talented art students. From illusory puddles to works of seed, compost and hair, here’s what to look out for.

Victorian College of the Arts
At the VCA show, you’ll find a toilet, a bed frame and other repurposed household items. It’s a highly tactile show, and there’s an emphasis on materiality, with many of the works constructed out of natural or salvaged objects. Georgina Goodnow and Layla Cluer have both adapted items from the home – a toilet, bathroom cabinet or wrought-iron bed frame – and structural elements, including walls and bricks from buildings around Melbourne. Nicole Thomson’s seven works on paper – about a sense of place in the natural world – incorporate thistles, seeds and debris from plants and animals. There are interesting paintings by a slew of students – Gabriel Curtin, Renee Estée, Nick Modrzewski and Julia Stewart – who each wrestle with colour and form. Of note is Ella Dunn’s vast salon hang of 35 paintings – landscapes and abstract figures in muted earthy tones that range in scale and complexity.

Enter at Margaret Lawrence Gallery – 40 Dodd Street, Southbank
11am–5pm everyday until November 27

Monash School of Art and Design
Natural materials are in focus at the MADA show. There’s a delicate and fascinating site-specific installation by Samantha Barrow, which looks at the relationship between salt and water, and their interaction with clay, lime and stone. In some cases her terracotta ceramics have been overtaken by striking, pure-white crystallised forms of salt. Imogen Yanera Lee-Cowell’s sculptures are scattered throughout different galleries . They’re made of tightly compressed red-brown sand and are about half a metre in height and width. Some have begun to break away from the set molds, spilling out onto the floor. There’s a large artwork by Teagan Bell, constructed by combining 26 of her previous works on paper with grass seeds, compost and even hair, pulping them together and forming one large piece spanning an entire wall.

Monash University Caulfield Campus, 900 Dandenong Road, Caulfield
10am–5pm Monday to Saturday until December 2

At RMIT, most students get their own sectioned-off white cube within the gallery. This worked for those that exploited the relationship between their space and their work. A two-metre tall, arch-like sculpture, made from cement and sand, commanded the space given to Isabel Buck. Fairy Turner’s Store – a composition of found and built minimalist sculpture– also affects the way you move around space: it’s packed full of objects in various compositions. Sarah McCauley’s Surplus installation features resin works that create the effect of puddles across the floor. It’s a piece that encourages closer inspection. If these sound a bit tricky to get your head around, there are also plenty of artists that use their space in a more conventional way, including a large range of paintings.

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RMIT School of Art – 124 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
10am–4pm Monday to Friday, 12pm–4pm Saturday until December 7

Admission is free at the VCA, MADA and RMIT exhibitions.