Next generation of artists take over the walls at NGV

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By Sam Cucchiara

FROM a dress made of animal road kill, to a film-projecting bicycle, the annual Top Arts exhibition has painted a bold picture of the future of Australian art.

In its 21st year at the National Gallery of Victoria, the exhibition is open to students who have studied VCE Art and Studio Art the previous year. From around 3000 submissions, the selectors whittled down this year’s finalists to just 42.

Co-curator Ingrid Wood says the standard of work keeps getting better every year. “The work is optimistic, it shows verve and vitality, it shows growing sophistication and confidence, and reveals great depth of thought, insight and concern for our planet and humanity,” she said.

Britt D’Argaville, from the Peninsula School in Mt Eliza, has a neon installation in the exhibition. Titled Political problem, it stemmed from her outrage at gender inequality in Australian politics.

“If a woman is seen crying, it’s usually deemed as emotionally unstable, but when a man is crying it’s usually seen as sensitive and good.”

The 18-year-old says the idea came to her while sitting in the car, after she heard a radio news report about former Prime Minister Julia Gillard crying. It’s this double standard her work seeks to condemn, using the gender-stereotyping colors of blue and pink.

D’Argaville visited the exhibition last year for inspiration, but never thought she would make it in. “The fact that I can say that my work is on the National Gallery of Victoria’s walls is completely a dream,” the aspiring artist says. “I didn’t think that I could reach that goal—it’s absolutely astonishing.”

NGV Director Tony Elwood said with such a high calibre of work, the future of Australian art looked promising.  “Each student has engaged with a high level of conceptual thinking and artistic technique to develop these pieces,” he said.

Creative industries minister Martin Foley said the exhibition was a stunning display of talent.

“At 21 we traditionally get the key to the world, and this 21st anniversary exhibition provides us with a glimpse into the world of Victoria’s young people—their concerns, experiences, ideas and creativity.” 

Top Arts is on display at the gallery’s Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square until June 28.

Image: supplied