Exhibition review: Top Arts 2010

by **

Dear Dad

If the phrase ‘Generation Gap’ sounds archaic, its practical resonance is anything but. Parents today are still baffled by the psychological hinterland of their children’s minds and children continue to struggle to be understood. On a wider social context, too, pre-voting generations cannot — at the ballot box — voice opinions that savvy governments know are policy imperative. Herein, Top Arts presents a vivid bridge.

Top Arts is an annual exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia to showcase the work of young artists from across Victorian schools. These works form part of their assessment for VCE Art and Studio Art. In this, its 17th year, 53 out of 110 shortlisted works are on display.  They range from photography to sculpture, etchings to film, paintings to installation.

In a specially dedicated hall, the exhibition echoes with young visceral feelings and reverberates with their vicarious response to the experience of those around them.

Here, distant indifference stares from an estranged inner world in Olivia Say’s exquisite etching of Still.

Hannah Fulton’s Phonebooth cuts a solitary figure that yearns for human connection in the desolation of night.

This remarkable oil painting by Catherine Gilford expresses an extraordinary comprehension of the sufferings of Holocaust victims — her great grandmother was one of them. Evocative images of death and starvation, chaos and dehumanisation jostle to culminate in this abstract masterpiece.

The liquid tension of sorrow brims on Philip Hickingbotham’s tender mind as he ruminates on his father’s emotions that teeter on the Edge of Darkness  upon learning about his own father’s demise. Life and death have suddenly acquired new visibility in the young man’s psychological vocabulary.

Arguably, one of the most memorable is a massive neck-craning installation by Jack Daye. In the claustrophobic corner of a narrow corridor, visitors find themselves backed up too close to a “fertile and chaotic mind” as the artist charts his psychological (and physiological) odyssey from Monsters to Queens and Everything in Between: A Journey of Self Discovery. With a staggering work of 200 photographs, Jack pours out his excruciating agony in the battle to reconcile his true identity with societal ideals and acceptable mores. With simulated bleeding from the mouth, Count Jackula has to inflict terror to survive. In turn, his mind churns and toils. No amount of physical pain from fork through mouth and (bulldog) clips on cheeks will match his emotional distress. A bunch of  tangled cords says it all.

Social issues with policy implications affect young minds more than adults and politicians care to think. Depression and waste, urbanisation and technology are amongst some of the concerns that have germinated.

Thomas Bowman’s Tormented Man is an arresting demonstration of the turmoil suffered by the mentally ill. Every sinew and strain, every claw and arch leaves one breathless and deeply affected.


An Untitled installation by Elizabeth Griffin puts our consumerism on trial: today’s material obsession becomes tomorrow’s waste.

Through The Notra Towers, Kip Scott mulls over the looming decay and ominous future wrought by pollution, epidemics, wars and overconsumption perpetrated by present generations.

Alyssa Giavara raises alarm bells about how humans have been transformed into Species unknown as a result of their inordinate reliance on technology that has subliminally crept into our DNA.

The brevity of this post does not do the exhibits nor the exhibition due justice. Each work is an extraordinary achievement — a window into a tender soul. And Top Arts is the bridge that leads us to the revelation of these windows.