The NGV hosts the best and most established artists in the country. But once a year space is given over to new blood. StArt Up: Top Arts 2016 is a selection of the best works from VCE art classes across the state, and the results might surprise you. They’re very, very good.

Curator Ingrid Wood has seen the show come together from the early stages, when more than 2000 entries flooded into the NGV late last year (it’s much like when the front room at Privet Drive is flooded with letters of offer from Hogwarts, says Wood). In whittling that down to the 90 shortlisted entries, and finally the 42 final works, patterns began to emerge.

“One thing people have noticed is that all of the materials the kids use are very accessible,” says Wood. “It’s all in reach of anyone. They’re interesting approaches that don’t use highfalutin materials.”

Case in point: Rosemary Duffy presents a self-portrait made by painstakingly injecting paint into each bubble of a large sheet of bubble wrap. The result speaks about the pixelated vision of herself she presents to the world. Samantha Grant puts twisted and braided balls of wool through a photocopier, and then draws pictures based on the results.

Wood says she could really gauge the zeitgeist of what’s concerning teenagers across the state. “There were a lot of works addressing personal identity, as ever,” she says. “But there was also lot about domestic violence and conflict.”

Hoatian Qian, for instance, has focused on very real battlefield scenes. Alexandra Trethewey has created a video piece depicting herself as a homeless woman, which is projected straight onto the floor, forcing viewers to step around and over her.

Tom Habal sought to emphasise the body’s relationship with water with photographs depicting twisted bodies dancing on a beach, limbs blurred and stretched. They’re imperfect images achieved with Habal’s clever, homemade slit-scan box, which creates bizarre time distortions within the image.

The future of visual art is in good hands.


StArt Up: Top Arts 2016 runs at NGV Australia, Federation Square until July.

Will Cox is the author of the NGV’s official StArt Up: Top Arts 2016 catalogue.