news: major works

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Image: ‘Swarm’, Canson, board and hand-made Spanish paper, punch-work. 60 cm x 60 cm (framed)

It’s that time of the year again, when in schools across the state thousands of brave and enthusiastic souls embark upon their final year of studies and creative endeavours in Visual Arts or Design & Technology. A vital component of these subjects is the deliberately extended engagement with a project based Major Work and it has frequently been observed that, for a multiplicity of reasons, it is seldom too early to start!

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Image: Tim Winters exhibition design

As a practicing visual artist myself, I recognise that every creator is different and every artwork is unique, bringing unique challenges but also unique rewards. Perhaps though it is the experience born of my 25 years as an exhibition designer – working in the cultural and historical realms,  and my time as a youth worker – running drop-in centres for disadvantaged teens, that best qualifies me for this particular role of Major Work Mentor. I have witnessed first hand (including with my own son) the challenges that these projects can present and the impact they can have upon the students’ hopes and ambitions, self-esteem and morale. More particularly, I am very accustomed to striving not to satisfy my own personal creative agenda, but to allow that to be subservient to the desires, intents and simple, pragmatic practicalities of the exhibition curator, the institutional objectives, the conservation requirements, the funding bodies, the corporate sponsors and ultimately of course, the viewing public – for whom the experience must be both informative and rewarding – a simple pleasure.

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Image: ‘Horatius’, portrait photograph

For a number of years I had the very great privilege to work with the team responsible for selecting and displaying students’ submitted bodies of work within the ArtExpress exhibitions. This was both intensely rewarding, but also frequently frustrating when witnessing works by students with very clear ability and commitment, but lacking only some small elements that could have taken their work and their sense of achievement to the next level – due simply to a lack of experience or a kind and informed word of advice and support from someone with greater knowledge or familiarity with the task they have set themselves.

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Image: ‘The Good Person of Setzuan’, stage design

Simple strategies to break the task into achievable milestones; learning to take a step back and consider their process and results from an objective viewpoint; researching and embracing new or unfamiliar materials; seeking advice or examples of alternative approaches or presentation techniques; all these and more can truly help your child find their unique creative contribution and help them feel they have truly optimised their ultimate outcome.

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Image: Promotional poster design (detail)