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Brave themes prominent at Visual Art exhibition

Hard-hitting themes like social and cultural isolation, environmental pollution, the ‘bruising’ of Maori culture, beauty, plastic surgery and the status of women through history featured in this year’s ACG Senior College International Baccalaureate Visual Arts public exhibition, held in the library at the end of term one.

The exhibition is the culmination of two years’ work for the Year 13 students who will graduate the IB Diploma in May. Over that time, students have been taught by two teachers – Andrew Strachan and Debbie McLachlan – who are specialists in art making areas such as drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and textiles.

Jameson Maxwell-Abramowitz, who grew up in New Zealand with a Zimbabwean father, explored the concept of what it means to be beautiful in Africa and the Western world.

Her latex 3D model ‘Locked In’ shows the way Western society locks women into impossible ideals of beauty; while ‘Zulu’ explores how Zulu women dress and express their beauty differently according to their relationship status. ‘Anxiety’, a plaster bust wrapped in wire and string, showcases how the desire to fit in and be considered beautiful is a universal emotion.

Social barriers and isolation was the theme of Nero Fu’s work.

“I am a Chinese student studying in New Zealand. I felt a sense of isolation while I was adapting to this new environment, unable to ‘fit in’ with everyone else,” he explains.

Over time, as he started to adapt, Nero felt himself stuck between two cultures. ‘Peeling identity’ shows a figure with its skin peeling off – representing someone who has adapted to a foreign environment but lost part of their identity in the process. ‘Social barriers’ juxtaposes a hand reaching out for societal acceptance on top of a list of social barriers – like language and values.

Maggie Yu hopes to spread the concept of a clean environment to countries like China who know no different.

“The issue is that people who reside in China for their whole lives do not know how different their environment is compared to cleaner countries so they make no effort to fix their damaging actions,” she explains.

Her portfolio features artworks of fishing nets, waves adorned with plastic, and people suffocating in plastic bags, showing the damage caused by overfishing and the dumping of waste. At one stage she had collected more than 100 empty plastic two litre milk bottles for a jellyfish installation, which proved too problematic and difficult to hang.

The effort showed the risk-taking and resilience that are markers of the IB Philosophy, said Art teacher Andrew Strachan.

He said seven students displayed their work in the exhibition, which teaches students the value of teamwork and how to communicate in a visual way their philosophy to an audience and community.

“This year the finishing students were the first to have a truly designated exhibition space where the school body, staff and parents could view their work as a real life gallery experience,” he explained.

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