Clever show relies on subtle meanings

Rhonda Dredge

It was quite difficult to pick trends in this year’s Grad Show at the Victorian College of the Arts in terms of art influences and history.

There were some ironic references to past practices such as hard-edge painting and materiality. 

But a common thread took a while to emerge out of the mix.

Jackson McLaren’s series Somewhere Between a Sentence and a Song in 19 parts gestured towards some meaning.

These beautiful experiments in texture combined hessian and paint in a range of abstract applications. 

Benjamin Baker in No Strings Attached Melody took the prize for scale in his over-sized Picasso-esque figures that dwarfed the visitor.

One Masters graduate told Southbank News that students were instructed to make their work schmick and this is a good description of the show.

There was little room for a mistake or a problem in the corner, a position challenged by Wylie Siassios in Confined Artist

Wylie was painting from 11am to 5pm over four days inside a large wooden box with peep holes, acting the part of the expressionist with “Warning: Paint Throwing and Splashing May occur” printed on the outside.


“It feels like I’m trapped in a square prison for a while,” he said. “Everywhere I go seems like a lobby, waiting for something to take over.”


Myles Carew in a series of figurative paintings dealing with prejudice was one of the most overt in terms of content with titles such as The Pretender and Flight. 

Most students go to art school with a range of questions about life and the significance of making things to display to others.

Grad shows are one way of demonstrating what they have discovered but there was no overriding message coming out this year. 

Many of the works on display were of museum quality but art can be more honest than that and demonstrate its own struggles as a maker goes through a rough patch of discovery.


This year’s show is more subtle in that it reports on the results of those studies rather than showing the artist’s mind at work. 


Phoebe Haig’s paintings, which engaged with close-ups of elemental transformations such as candlelight, dampness and heat waves, were both clever and beautiful.

The constructions of Joseph Doggett-Williams conjured up memories of strange little forgotten objects from the Edwardian era as he explored anthropological relationships to nature in A Snail without a Shell

The combination of paint, ink jet prints and plastic coatings intensified the uncanny qualities of his source materials. •


Photo caption 1: Jackson McLaren Somewhere between a Sentence and a Song

Photo caption 2: Benjamin Baker No Strings Attached Melody

Photo caption 3: Wylie Siassios Confined Artist

Photo caption 4: Myles Carew Flight

Photo caption 5: Phoebe Haig Heatwave

Photo caption 6: Joseph Doggett-Williams A Snail without a Shell

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