The Top Arts VCE 2009 exhibition has more variety than regular exhibitions at the NGV, Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square. Sure there are examples of all media that are regularly exhibitions at the NGV: painting, photography, prints, sculpture and video art. But there is also lots of art that is not normally exhibited at the NGV. Illustrations, especially illustrations from literary sources like Nina Waldron’s “Lord of the Flies” that powerfully evokes William Golding’s novel, are rarely shown. Comic books, like Harry Hay’s “Rover and the captains” are also rarely seen on exhibition at the NGV. Pop-surrealist paintings, like those of Michelle Molinari, are a genre that the NGV curators would normally avoid.
The Top Arts exhibition forces these media and genres into the NGV. It is a democratic election that brings art into the gallery based on quality rather than curatorial fashion. The variety of art on exhibition maybe one of the reasons for the popularity of this annual exhibition; Tops Arts last year had more than 100,000 people attending the exhibition (from the NGV media kit). It is one reason why I have seen the Top Arts exhibition in previous years.
I went to the NGV media preview for the exhibition. At least this exhibition fits with the main focus of my blog – to review artists that are off the mainstream critical map. This is the 16th year of Top Arts exhibition at the NGV. The exhibition features 80 works by 57 of the best students who completed Art or Studio Arts as part of their VCE, Victorian Certificate of Education (I’m cribbing again from the NGV’s media kit).
I did get to speak to some of the artists at the media preview; they were all wearing nametags and were standing by their art to be interviewed and photographed by the media pack. I talked with André Bricknell who is exploring abstract painting: he said his style has already developed from the Basquiat inspired painting on exhibition. His painting demonstrated that he enjoyed the unconscious revelry of painting. Ryan Mitchell told me that his prints, with their calm and elegant images, were possible due to his art teacher’s interaction with the students at Portland Secondary College rather than good printing facilities at the school.
If you enjoy variety in an art exhibition then you will enjoy this exhibition. If you normally don’t like a lot of the art on exhibition at the NGV you will find something that you will like at Top Arts.