The Grad Show is something else

By Rhonda Dredge

Expression made a return to the Grad Show at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) this year with a strong noir undercurrent, hinting at mysteries unsolved.

The more accomplished photographic and material experiments seemed less connected to the times.

Ebony Hickey showed disdain for the colonising impact of the English language in her suite of paintings Of Self.

Al Pomroy responded to the tragic beauty of paint in Prayers, Gardens & Voices Arranged and Georgie Halliwell to the spatial dimensions of line in the impressive The body is meat/the mind is unlimited.

In previous years genres such as fantasy or hard edge painting have formed a cluster of influence but this year students, stuck in isolation, were more likely to follow their own bent.

In the past few decades the concept of the brilliant artist working alone in his or her little cell has been rejected by experiments in collaboration.

For some the C word has been put on a holy pedestal.

The pandemic has forced artists back into their own crazy worlds and the result is honest and true to the times.

Everyone has spent a lot of screen time and filmic influences are apparent but not stifling.

Instead of fiddling excessively with the technology, Paul Barnes has used film directors as models for his Portraits (Film Director Series).

All look intensely at the viewer sharing a moment of intelligence and slightly crazed introspection.

Patrick Staley takes this to an extreme in Untitled 1-4, renditions in charcoal and pastel of being trapped in a room.

The self and its confines is a topic true to the heart of the times and to the European Expressionists.

No one is going quite as far as Munch or Fairweather and mess has been rejected in favour of constraint.

The best work is about itself, not an easy task.

Georgie Halliwell practised her spatial designs on small Tarot cards before scaling up.

Al Pomroy’s works on paper show similar exquisite looseness to his painting but his material experiments are less convincing.

Those works that allow you in, either in a genre or spatial sense, and show the distress of the speculative age we inhabit, aren’t really about materials.

Unless it’s an office chair which Thandiwe Bethune found difficult to sit on in Rumble Rupture Tear Track •

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