A mantra for our times

By Rhonda Dredge

The chill factor won out in the great, rambunctious event that signalled the end of the art year for 164 students last month at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA).

Thousands of visitors spilled out onto the new courts after viewing 685 works in this uber Graduate Exhibition.

It was hard to remain casual with so much talent on display at once.

Most works are for sale and students are hoping to launch their careers after a passage through the much-loved hothouse environment of the VCA art faculty.

Michael McCafferty was one graduate who managed to stay cool with his series of nicely-paced abstractions on wood.

“They’re just a bunch of lines,” he said modestly of Painting 3, a loosely-painted work on a homemade frame with the nails showing through in a nod towards anti-aestheticism.

“It’s the best way to communicate more than something specific,” he said of the abstractions, which he has taken up after playing a bit of music and doing a bit of writing. “They give you more bandwidth.”

A video installation by Elliot Green, Wonderland in Alice, also managed to hit the note, filling a small dark room in the painting department with footage of a group of friends also sitting in a small dark room. There was popcorn for sale.

Self-deprecating narratives can be viewed as a form of creative minimalism, as small pockets of resistance to all of the hype that surrounds art.

Gone were the more studied spatial experiments that preoccupied students for a decade or so and present, instead, were some neat little fast food fantasies by Steven Song with tributes to ketchup and Burger King.

Installations also tended towards the informal, with collections of objects, rather than anything too architectural; fans and battered busts being apparent.

There was an inspiring looseness to the portraits of the VCA academic greats by Jacq Wylestone and in sculpture Yunyang Cen attracted quite a crowd of revellers to watch her Anti-Party Machine.

Some commentators were giving her work a political interpretation but Yunyang’s elaborate exercise with inflated balloons had a personal element.

“I hate everyone at a party performing themselves,” she said. “In a childish way I want to destroy the party.”

Philosophising is one of the great pleasures of the art scene and Jason Willers gave it a go in relation to his lusciously painted Proscenium.

“It’s like a stage set, many different worlds within a world,” he said. “I like ideas that make a claim on what art is.”

He said that art is colourful because it wants to grab our attention. “It makes a totalising claim when art is always an endless mystery.”

This year the masters graduation exhibition was combined with honours and undergraduates, stretching the limit of the viewer.

Masters’ work tended towards the traditional in terms of painting technique, messages and installations.

Noni Drew stood out with her great little Instagram simulations. “If he doesn’t like art don’t f… him” got 11,898 likes. You can’t argue with that!

Graduate Exhibition, Victorian College of the Arts, until December 15.

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