Prove your humanity

Buried inside the underground Centenary Gallery of Western Australia’s Art Gallery, the top year 12 visual arts students for 2018 took my breath away. Through a broad range of mediums, the artists explored themes surrounding cultural ties, gender identity, family and our impact on the environment.

In previous years the exhibition was been called ‘Year 12 Perspectives’, however it has recently changed to ‘Pulse Perspectives’ to allow an expansion of what the exhibition really is about; identifying “the pulse” of the citizens who will lead and change the future of our world.

As I meandered through the peaceful gallery, the first piece of artwork that caught my eye was Cavity by Julius Yu. Using oil on board, he focused attention on what is most overlooked–– the spaces between walls. A simple idea that is often disregarded captivated me, as I walked around the podium on which it sat, two boards of plywood and the space in between, encapsulated in clear acrylic. The first board displayed the door in a stairwell that lead to the maintenance room on the other side. The space in between was as you would expect: pipes, an electrical box and not much more. I don’t know why, but the artwork really struck me.

In Connor Fallon’s work, Boys Don’t Cry, he explored the ever-evolving ideas around the male image, its impact on mental health and how it is often portrayed in society. A phantom child swaddled in a baby blue quilt symbolised “the gender ideals that we ‘wrap’ our children in from birth”. A very topical piece, as toxic masculinity currently holds a lot of discussion online and the movement is gaining momentum. The idea that we have surrounded our children with this stereotype is frightening, but inspires change.

Super Normal by Mila Mary portrayed “the modern-day woman” in a media saturated society. Utilising humour, she used mixed media on board to create cartoon-like illustrations of what it means to be a woman participating on social media today. I couldn’t help but laugh as I inspected every detail in her intricate work; it was so relatable as a fellow female. I loved how she held no barriers in her artwork; every colour, shape and size of women across the world were represented on the circular boards. The colours were quite garish which added to the cartoonish feel of the artwork, along with the brutally honest depictions of what goes on in a girl’s head. If I had to pick a favourite, Mary would take my vote, as I loved the way that she transparently represented life in the skin of a woman and through the eyes of a screen.

Several artists produced works of art surrounding their family and the cultural barriers that they face in the modern world. Alice Wu explores this in her piece, Subclass 457. Her painting used harsh, dry brushstrokes, inspired by Louise Hearman’s Barry, and depicted her dad in his shed, a packet of cigarettes and container of pills by his side. Wu’s painting was so lifelike that it could’ve been a photograph, the shadows and highlights expressed so realistically. Stephanie Tan painted her Malaysian grandfather in her piece, Changing Tides. The oil on canvas was very soft with no harsh lines, illustrating the love and pride that she felt for her grandfather for overcoming the challenges in his life.

Deliverance by Rosie Janes was spectacular. Featuring the word ‘WORD’ in individual letters spanning approximately 3m across the wall, Janes used a broad array of mediums from stone metal and shell to plant fibre and glass to create her artwork. It was a timeline of literacy from the tip of the ‘W’ starting with cavemen––indicated by a single hand print in clay–– to the present day, shown through an old iPhone at the bottom of the ‘D’. I observed this piece for a long time, I was so amazed at how much research and effort she must have done to create her work. Janes incorporated many different languages into her artwork as well, including hieroglyphics, Arabic, Sanskrit and Hiragana. This international aspect displayed the global perspective of language and its development. Deliverance was most certainly a standout for me.

A few other artworks I deemed to be quite thought-provoking were Issy Ramshaw’s Irreverence where she’d used meadow grass, natural raffia and beeswax to sculpt a desktop computer, keyboard, mouse and phone to accentuate the contrast between the natural world and the technological society we are so immersed in. Ocean in the Plastic created by Genevieve Matthews entailed a selection of porcelain and paper cast plastic containers and bottles covered in coral with a blue hue. In her words, it represents “the individual contribution to the catastrophic effects of plastic on the environment”. Her anger is evident and rightfully so.

At the end of the gallery, many rows of wire had been strung across a window with a plethora of yellow ribbons knotted along them. The multitude of textures and tones each symbolised how you felt after experiencing the artwork; moved and challenged were a few of the emotions on offer. Patrons were encouraged to contribute to the survey with the ribbons provided. I tied a yellow satin ribbon to the wire; I was inspired.

Pulse Perspectives is on display at the Art Gallery of Western Australia till July 22!