Making a Major Work
Making a major work can be a big undertaking. What with students trying to juggle the load of several subjects during their HSC or IB year, as well as any other co-curricular activities, major works add a whole other element to the mix. The experience of undertaking these creative ventures, though, is a huge reward in itself. Intrigued by the process behind it all, we caught up with four HSC students currently putting together their Visual Arts major works.
“I am fascinated by the psychology behind people ignoring the city around them,” Ben Watson-Leitch of Year 12 tells me. He opens his laptop to show me the progress he’s been making with his photographic project — a suite of images depicting individuals amongst the city environment, but oblivious to their surrounds. There is the girl with an Ipad in lap, immersed in her technological bubble, a bus driver sitting in the doorway of his automotive office playing a flute, or a group of boys congregated on a wharf, backs to the iconic structure that is our Sydney Harbour Bridge. “I am trying to capture the everyday, with the city as a backdrop,” says Ben. And the eloquence of portraying a city as little more than a background is very powerful. It aptly reflects the way people can sometimes take their surrounds for granted and reminds us to take a look around.
Meanwhile, Georgia Vaughn is working on a mixed media project that draws heavily upon one of her favourite things: tea. “I wanted to fit as many tea-related things into my work as possible,” Georgia tells me as she flicks through inspiration images of tea cups. “I plan to use a lot of collage in my work,” she says, “and to include tea bags, roses that you can put in your tea and also some tea-related photographs.” The end result will be a work mounted on a backboard that strongly references tea culture— the outline of a tea cup. “I drink a lot of tea,” Georgia says with a smile. “And it’s a great thing to use in art because you can paint watercolours with it as well.” She explains her own process of trial and error in experimenting with this process. “I tried it with cranberry and strawberry tea,” she says, “but it turned out too purple.”
According to St Andrew’s Head of Visual Arts, Mr Paul Fitzgerald, the Board of Studies criteria for major works has a dual focus. “On one hand, the projects are assessed based on technical resolution,” Mr Fitzgerald explains. “That is, how well the project has been made and refined. On the other hand though, it’s about conceptual strength and meaning — the quality of the ideas and how well that’s been communicated.”
For his Visual Arts project, Ben and Georgia’s classmate, James Marquet has been working on a series of compelling posters. Inspired by the merging of popular culture and politics in today’s society, James has set out to create a work that references this trend. “Essentially, I am appropriating well-known film posters and blending them together with current political events,” James explains. From Gaddafi and the uprisings in Libya, to the way Putin propagandises himself in Russia, James doesn’t miss a beat. With nine posters currently in the works, he hopes to submit a final product of 10-12. Among them so far are Rear Window meets Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal, The Godfather meets Gaddafi and Goodfellas meets Kim Jong-Il. “I have tried to choose films whose content relates to the political events they reflect,” says James. “For example, Goodfellas is about three generations of the mafia, so I have replaced those figures in the poster with three generations of Kim Jong-Il’s family.” James’ project is one that has developed out of an interest in how society deals with modern politics and, in many senses, the progression of his work maps a timeline of political occurrences. “I think that news in general has become far less serious,” James says of his inspiration behind the project. “A lot of television programs, for example, don’t seem to take important stories seriously. So I’m interested in satirising this merging of pop culture and politics.”
Moving away from the Mac room and back into the art classroom, I find Nina Ledden busily working on an ink drawing. “I am interested in incorporating elements of mixed media into my work,” she says. “And I really like to mix acrylic paints with photography, for example.” The piece she is working on when we meet is a gripping portrait of a man’s face. “I am very interested in drawing the human face,” she tells me. “This one is inspired by traditional Chinese theatre costumes.” Nina’s attention to detail in depicting the man’s costume is certainly impressive. When asked about the inspiration behind her subject matter, she explains that her grandparents recently travelled to China and brought back a book of postcards with traditional Chinese images on them. “It is largely inspired by those images,” Nina says.
Each of these four students’ projects are vastly different and very much their own. From photography, to multimedia and the depiction of ancient costume, one can see that embarking on the journey of creating a major work in any subject is a very personal and creative experience. Though it can be burdensome, it can also be very rewarding — with the right amount of commitment and effective time management skills, of course. We wish all HSC and IB students the best of luck with their major works, as submission deadlines creep closer.
Words: Rosie Dalton