Processing life through art

“Art is a place for children to learn to trust their ideas, themselves, and to explore what is possible.” - Maryann F Kohl

We were all delighted when 80% of our VCE Studio Arts class achieved a Study Score of 40+ and four students achieved a Study Score of 50. Congratulations to Emily Krum, Stella Stanford-Clark, Honor Jennings and Scarlet Thomas on achieving their Study Score of 50. Of our VCE Visual Communications students, 75% achieved a Study Score of 40+ and over 80% of our IB Visual Art students achieved a score of 6 or 7. Six of our IB Visual Art students achieved a score of 7.

Three of our VCE students will be exhibiting their work at Top Arts which showcases the art work and folios of top VCE Art and Studio Arts students. This will be an extraordinary accolade for these students and for their teachers who committed themselves to working with the girls through challenging circumstances. My congratulations go to Zara Blake, Katie Burgess and Scarlett Thomas whose works will be exhibited at the NGV Top Arts.

Skilful guides

Our Lauriston Visual Arts students have consistently received excellent results and the creative talents of our students are nurtured throughout their years in Senior School and Junior School. The students are provided with a solid foundation which covers a broad range within the visual arts and visual communications and media. Their teachers encourage the girls to explore their interests and they are constantly challenged to grow and develop their skills and creative talents.

I often reflect on the manner in which our teachers within the Visual Arts communicate and teach their students to enable these results. Firstly, they develop positive working relationships with each girl which I think results in a desire for their teachers to challenge their thinking and continually develop their understanding of the process of art making. There is a strong sense of honest conversations between teacher and student, particularly as the girls move into years 11 and 12. Feedback is valued, along with hard work and commitment.

Any student who undertakes studies in the Visual Arts at Lauriston must be prepared to commit time and energy into the completion of her theory and practical work. Each student is called upon to document her progression as she develops her folio of work and to listen to the critical feedback of her teacher. The hours spent in the production of their work was hampered in 2021 by not being able to attend school to work with their teachers in the art studios.

I was recently interviewed for an editorial on The Arts which will appear in The Age. I commented that our girls gain a strong foundation in the Arts whether they begin in Kindergarten, Junior or Senior School. While the COVID pandemic has posed challenges for all forms of the Arts, our teachers and students have demonstrated considerable resilience and tenacity in pushing forward, adapting to virtual lessons, exhibitions and performances when required.

I would like to commend our teachers of the Visual and Performing Arts who are committed to our students and who have been resilient and flexible in their approaches to teaching and learning.

Tenacity and ingenuity

In Term 4, 2021, I commended the work of our IB and VCE students who studied Visual Arts, Visual Communications and Design and Media. The work they displayed in our VCE and IB Art Exhibition was of a high standard and even more commendable because the girls had carried out much of their work while they were at home and with limited opportunities to work at school.

There are many stories of the tenacity and ingenuity demonstrated by our Class of 2021 as they completed their work for submission. I retain a strong visual image of Zara Blake walking across our oval with trays of her pottery which needed to be fired in our kiln. I know the number of hours that Poppy Eather spent in beading her jacket and trousers which were part of her folio of work. I remember packages of art supplies which needed to be left at reception for our students. I know that our teachers communicated remotely with their students as they edged towards the submission of work date. I know that each student will have her own story about overcoming the challenges of the year and in particular, the sixth Lockdown, as work was nearing completion.

Each year our VCE and IB Exhibition is a special event on our school calendar. I am fortunate to see the work that goes on prior to the opening of the exhibition where our art technician, maintenance staff, teachers and students work together to hang the works for display. The exhibition represents the hours of work undertaken by each student and it is of great value for each girl to have the opportunity to speak with their parents, family members and teachers about their work. These conversations are always memorable and help us all to gain insights into the creative process itself and the ideas or feelings being expressed in each piece.

Art mirroring life

I believe that visual and performing arts provides an outlet for our students to reflect upon their community and the world in general and express their thoughts and feelings. The artists in our Class of 2021 certainly communicated their views and feelings about a variety of social themes, including the Pandemic. Equally, our creative expression offers each one of us a chance to remove ourselves from the daily reality of our lives and savour those moments of happiness and ‘flow’ when painting, or playing music, is the only thing we are thinking about.

For a long time I have been a fan of American realist artist, Edward Hopper (1882-1967). This is a piece entitled Morning Sun (1952) in which the woman is bathed in the early light streaming through the window of a New York apartment. While Edward Hopper said that he found pleasure in the city of New York, he also appreciated solitude, and in this painting, the woman is enjoying a solitary moment before heading out into society. I would hope that the woman was looking out of the window and thinking positively about the day ahead or her life in general.

In an article I read recently, the writer commented that Morning Sun may have become an image of our time. During periods of Lockdown and quarantine, windows have provided a view of our ‘normal lives’ which we have not been able to enjoy for periods of time.

I would also suggest that looking through our windows has offered some opportunity for quiet contemplation about ourselves or families or the world in general. I hope we can continue to retain this ability for reflection and appreciation of the lessons we’ve learned in 2021 and bring this wisdom forward into 2022.

Susan Just
Principal, Lauriston Girls’ School