Young artists celebrated at VCA’s 2023 Grad Show
A landmark event in the Melbourne arts calendar, the 2023 Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) Grad Show, exhibited the works of more than 140 graduating students across the campus between November 24 to November 30.
Graduands from Photography, Sculpture, Painting, and Drawing and Printmaking, as well as Honours and Master’s students, were celebrated in the annual exhibition, with the show’s opening night on November 24 attracting “at least 3000 people” to the Southbank precinct.
“It’s been a great year for the show,” VCA’s head of art, Simone Slee said.
“Last year was the first year we had a live opening and reflecting back, it felt more feverish; this year felt very grounded and generous and celebratory, it was a really joyous night.”
Despite VCA offering students specialisation in either photography, sculpture, painting, or drawing and printmaking as part of their visual arts program, Ms Slee said that the university’s focus on contemporary art had allowed students to broaden their practice, both throughout the course and in the show.
“What you’ll see with contemporary art is that everyone makes all kinds of things, despite the discipline, for example, a program may be photography, however you will see sculptures and paintings,” she told Southbank News.
Everyone seems to have developed their own singular voice which is really exciting, and what you want in an art school. You want people to be able to find their own voice and to start that trajectory for their art careers.
The show’s opening night unveiled several “show-stopping moments”, including James Brett’s “umbrella fountain”.
Engineered by James, the work saw guests taking on the meaning of “show-stopping” in its most literal sense, with crowds of people pausing to marvel at the installation’s construction.
“One thing that’s noticeable with this year’s exhibition is that there’s a different kind of scale than we’ve seen in the last few years, particularly coming out of the COVID years where it was much more internal and smaller scale,” Ms Slee said.
“Now there’s a very strong sense of ambition – the works are larger, they’re uncompromising.”
A proud Boonwurrung and Erub woman, Amina Briggs’ mural work was another large-scale piece included in the show, exploring the “crippling effects of colonisation” as part of her Master’s degree in painting.
“When I make art, I usually do it from my own perspective and the things that affect me,” Ms Briggs said.
“The blue people are a recurring figure in my work – they’re doing the dishes and other water-related tasks to try and regain a sense of control over the situation, but at the same time, their pride won’t let them admit that they’re also affected by colonisation.”
Yixuan Zhao is also a Master’s student in painting, exploring the idea of beauty through her work, drawing inspiration from the “aesthetics of classical paintings”.
“I feel a sense of relief when I paint, it’s like a form of meditation,” Ms Zhao said.
“When I’m painting, it brings me inner peace and separates me from the physical world.”
As well as presenting an opportunity for friends and family of students to come and see their work, the show also supports students by awarding various monetary prizes and offering artist-run initiatives to kick-start their careers post-study, in addition to works being available to purchase.
“We will launch more formally in the New Year, the 2023 VCA Art Catalogue – an online website featuring all of this year’s graduates’ art practice to allow us to have a much more national and international reach,” Ms Slee said.
“It’s also a great conduit where we’ve found that students have been getting shows in all sorts of places, for example, in New York and London – this is just one of the fabulous things that can happen for our graduates once they complete their degree with us.”
In the heart of the Arts Precinct, the VCA Grad Show is a pivotal steppingstone for young artists to launch their professional careers.
“I think what we saw the other night was really reflective of the whole community approach to making art – it was really special,” Ms Slee said. •
Caption: Students exhibit their work at the 2023 Victorian College Arts Grad Show. Photos courtesty of Gregory Lorenzutti.