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Date-Stamping What It’s Like To Be A teen Today

Nov 15, 2018
Article by Claire Van Ryn

Tasmania’s young people are immensely talented. Take a walk around the annual Artrage exhibition at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and you will arrive at the same conclusion. Guaranteed.

Lume had the rare privilege of being ushered into the space before the artwork was even on the walls. Instead of at eye level, they were at toe level, laid carefully on butcher’s paper, beckoning the eyes down, to squat beside them and look deeper into the detail. Artrage curator Ashley Bird has been doing just this, touring Tasmania’s 22 schools that offer year 11 and 12 art programs, scouring more than 1000 bodies of work to find the 10 per cent or so that make up this year’s exhibition. As he picks his way across the floored exhibition, pointing out this large-scale drawing of a skater and that installation of feathers etched into perspex and lit from below, he is telling me of the sophistication evident in this year’s work.

“They’re using new technologies, embracing the old and the new, from printmaking and sculpting to laser cutting and 3D printing,” he says.

“When I select work, I look for a level of talent and skill that culminates in something that’s mature and sophisticated and concept-rich.”

It’s also about distilling the spectrum of art practice that is being produced amidst the vibrance of year 11 and 12 art studios. That’s no small undertaking.

Ashley points to what looks like a pixelated photograph from a distance, but as I crouch down I see that it’s a portrait hand-woven from portrait photographs. Fire extinguishers wrapped in tinsel, fake flowers and pink fur suggest they might rescue the user from something other than flames. We peer at a small sculpture of sinuous bodies with masterful detail in hands and facial expression. It was created with a 3D printer, then carefully sanded and painted so that it resembles something honed from clay rather than plastic. There is a series of embroideries; black thread on white cloth in a black embroidery hoop. The stitches are long, straight, yet somehow combine to form the intricacies of people’s faces.

“Artrage is like a date stamp of what it’s like being a teenager today,” Ashley says.

“It’s about how they negotiate their own identities, and there are some really brave things they want to tackle in their artwork too.”

The two Examiner’s Choice winners were Ned Daniels from Guilford Young College and Sharni Rushton from Hellyer College, whose work occupies a large corner each of the exhibition space, giving greater understanding of the artistic process and appreciation of the full body of work. Sharni’s piece is a series of square paintings that make a mosaic refugee narrative.

Elsewhere, a student has photographed a certain QVMAG employee with a brown paper bag over his head inscribed with the words, “I have no reaction to ‘great’ works of art” … and is that a Glover in the background? Ashley laughs, “The art world can be really wanky and pretentious. So even if it is a little controversial, I love what it’s saying!”

Artrage is on display in Launceston until April 15 before touring to Hobart and Burnie.

Photos by Andrew Johnstone

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