“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” Desmond Tutu

My favourite time to view our Year 12 IB and VCE Exhibition which incorporates the Visual Arts, Visual Communication and Design, and Media Studies, is early in the morning before the cacophony of the school day begins.

I can stand quietly in front of each piece of work and sometimes I am drawn to colours or images, and sometimes I am offered a provocative viewpoint of a particular topic, while at other times I am made to reflect upon my own personal viewpoint about an issue, and on some occasions, I empathise and feel exactly the same way as the creator of the piece.

Why does art matter?

Over the past two years, I believe that the VCE and IB exhibition has done far more than enable our students to complete their courses of study. I believe that their work has provided them with an opportunity to reflect, express themselves and share their ideas during a period of time when they have been disconnected from their friends and teachers through Lockdowns, and often felt disconsolate that they have been unable to enjoy their senior years of study and celebrate the end of the school years.

In 2019, the artist Banksy, opened an online store called Gross Domestic Product and in order to have the opportunity to make a purchase, customers first had to answer the question: Why does art matter?

Why indeed. Below I offer some perspectives from those who have lived and breathed art.

Kate Sulan, the artistic director of Rawcus Theatre Company believes that we need art to help us navigate the world and connect us in our humanity. Art has the ability, she believes, to fuel dreams, accumulate questions and illuminate complexity. It gives us the opportunity to practice empathy and embrace the unknown. We can reflect back our world but also imagine a different one.

In 2009, Mary Boone wrote in the Huffington Post, that art provides a necessary escape from the troubles of the world. Art gives our eyes and mind a chance to rest, to muse, to think. We can reconnect with our inner spirit that is rich in thoughts, feelings and dreams.

Art dealer, David Zwirner, in 2020 wrote in The New York Times that he believed that art is most gratifying as an intellectual pursuit. Great art is complex and expects work from us when we engage with it. He writes about standing in front of a work of art and suddenly the work is speaking back to you. Zwirner writes that art can reach into the darkest places of the human psyche and it does so to help us understand and hopefully transcend.

John Tusa of the Barbican wrote that art questions the way we look at the world and offers different explanations of that world. If we did not have art our society would stop talking and dreaming, lose interest in the past and lack curiosity about the future.

Art Critic and Theorist, John Berger, sees something inherently autobiographical in the art of drawing. It is a continual process of refining vision which moves us towards new understandings about ourselves and the world around us.

Art Image 1

The Arts at Lauriston Girls’ School

The ability for our students to complete their pieces this year was impacted upon by our most recent Lockdown and a decision on the part of VCAA that they could not come into school to continue their work in our art studios. I respect these young women who never gave up and persisted with their work to ensure they would complete their final pieces.

In our 120th year I would like to thank our Class of 2021 for continuing a fine tradition in our School. Our Visual Arts, Visual Communication and Design and Media teachers have for many years guided and encouraged our students to explore traditional and new techniques; reimagine how materials and objects can be used; reflect on their world and the major issues of the day. This working relationship between student and teacher enables them to personally respond to issues which impact themselves and our society, and to be courageous in allowing others to see themselves and their personal voice through their art. Despite the challenges of 2020 and 2021, our Class of 2021 have maintained a high standard of work and allowed each one of us to stop and think and remember that art matters.

I conclude with some images from visual artist, Stasele Jakunskaite, who exhibited these illustrations in a 2020 exhibition entitled These Strange Times at the Dublin Science Gallery.

Susan Just
Principal, Lauriston Girls' School