Get set to be inspired by the incredible talent of these young adults. The annual Top Arts exhibition has arrived at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), showcasing the artworks of 45 Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) graduates of 2023, chosen from more than 1200 applicants. We spoke to some of the featured artists to discuss the themes, inspiration and creative process behind their artworks. 

Top Arts Artist: Anne Fo

 Anne Fo and a greyscale animated drawing, which is of a detailed 3D sectional view of a cluttered apartment building.  
Anne Fo, City of Lights, 2023, digital animation, graphite on paper, 3 min 16 sec, Mount Waverley Secondary College, Mount Waverley, Wurundjeri Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

City of Lights depicts an intricate, claustrophobic network of communal and private spaces as a representation of modern urbanisation. Using graphite pencils to complete the urban maze and Procreate to animate the final artwork, Anne methodically worked clockwise, completing each room before moving onto the next. 

Before putting pencil to paper, Anne did thorough research. “I studied the social case studies of ‘coffin’ apartments in Hong Kong and the Kowloon Walled City in China. The work helped me reflect how different our homes are to others, in infrastructure and social norms, whilst having the same spirit of community,” she says. 

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Top Arts Artist: Felix Hatherley

Felix Hatherley with his painting, which features human outlines, a variety of apples and a mix of blue, red and yellow brush strokes used to convey a chaotic feeling. 
Felix Hatherley, The Chaotic identity of Humans conveyed through falling apples, 2023, oil on canvas, 101.5 x 80.0 cm, Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Melbourne, Wurundjeri Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

Felix’s The Chaotic identity of Humans conveyed through falling apples embodies the emotional growing pains of self-discovery. “The philosophy of personal identity asks the question of what makes someone the same person over time. I found this to be a very chaotic and disorderly idea, which inspired me to create an artwork that can reflect that,” says Felix.

To achieve the desired effect in his work, Felix took “artistic risks” in the creation process. “Brushing over the highly detailed apples with messy, expressionist-like brush strokes was definitely a risky and challenging task for me,” he says. “Not only did I fear ruining my work, but this style of unpredictable brush strokes was all new to me.” 

Top Arts Artist: Gabriella Vittorio 

Gabriella Vittorio and two artworks. One features human-like pigs sitting around a lunch table with a human girl, and the other shows two human-like rats in a lab setting. 
Gabriella Vittorio, Lunchtime, 2023, inkjet print, 59.6 x 84.5 cm, and Lab Rats, 2023, inkjet print, 59.6 x 84.5 cm, Notre Dame College, Shepparton, Yorta Yorta Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

Gabriella’s Lunchtime depicts a young girl sitting among a group of anthropomorphic pigs having lunch together. Created digitally using Sketchbook Pro, Gabriella pored over every detail, from miniscule hairs to lighting, making over 50 layers to complete the final image.

Lunchtime was inspired by exploring themes of my childhood and how my culture influenced me growing up in Australia,” says Gabriella. “As someone of Italian heritage, I remember bringing in my homemade lunches into primary school. My classmates, who were mostly of Australian background, would poke fun at me and my food; inspiring the use of pigs as an ironic spin as to how their connotations made me feel.”

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Top Arts Artist: Harrison Lucas

Harrison Lucas and an illustrated artwork, which shows a person in front of a path illuminated by a yellow flashlight surrounded by a black and white maze filled with monsters and skulls. 
Harrison Lucas, Dreaded Imaginary Expectations, 2023, coloured fibre-tipped pen on illustration board, installation 203.2 x 256.0 cm, Bentleigh Secondary College, Bentleigh East, Boonwurrung Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

Sometimes where words fail, art succeeds. Harrison’s Dreaded Imaginary Expectations embodies the sensations of isolation and dread felt when suffering from anxiety. Inspired by the style and techniques of South Korean illustrator Kim Jung Gi, Harrison freely sketched out his artwork before finalising it using Posca markers. 

“I was inspired to create my work because of my love of creation, wanting to depict my imagination and to express emotion through my imaginary characters,” says Harrison. “Anxiety and pressure can be difficult for a lot of people, so I thought that the scale of this piece would help convey the enormity and scale of these emotions.”

Top Arts Artist: Janelle Moss 

Janelle Moss and a series of textured paintings showing a variety of landscapes, including a seaside cliff, a muddy track in farmland, green hills and a sunset.
Janelle Moss, Victorian Impressionism landscapes series, 2023, oil on polyester cotton board, framed, various dimensions with framing, Belmont High School, Belmont Geelong, Wathaurong Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

Janelle’s five-piece Victorian Impressionism landscapes series draws inspiration from the impressionism and expressionism movements. “I love how Impressionists conveyed their perspective of an environment via visible brushstrokes onto the canvas,” says Janelle.

With digital photographs as references, she applied oil paints to canvas using different-sized palette knives to create her five artworks, each of a different natural setting. “I love the diversity of my local landscapes, from farmland with rolling hills, the Surf Coast, the bay, [and] suburbia,” says Janelle.

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Top Arts Artist: Jasper Muir

Jasper Muir and two digital photos: one of some people in a snowy village setting surrounded by blue and red lights, and the other of a cabin in the mountains in winter. 
Jasper Muir, Beige, 2023, inkjet print, 59.4 x 84.1 cm, and Exploration of Nostalgia, 2023, inkjet print, 30.0 x 42.0 cm, Melbourne Rudolf Steiner School, Warranwood, Wurundjeri Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

Beige is Jasper’s love letter to the things that inspire him: Olympic gold medalist skier Jakara Anthony, Mount Buller in Victoria, and Yoke Lore’s song ‘Beige’. Captured digitally and edited using Camera Raw 15.0, a sense of nostalgia is present in the image. 

The blue and red lighting are altered to saturate the scene, casting a vivid yet hazy glow, that adds to the image’s dreamlike effect. “I was extremely unsure of how it was going to turn out. I knew the photo had potential, but it was only after editing it that I knew it was going to be any good,” says Jasper.

Top Arts Artist: Jett Leduc

Jett Leduc and a series of black and white photos showing a woman and an old car in front of a small, weatherboard house, a shed and a metal fence in a semi-rural setting.
Jett Leduc, DORA (FLORA), 2023, inkjet print, (a) 59.4 x 42.0 cm (b) 59.4 x 42.0 cm (c) 59.4 x 42.0 cm, (d) 59.4 x 42.0 cm, Ballarat High School, Ballarat, Wathaurong Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

Jett’s DORA (FLORA) print encourages audiences to question their process of perception and raises queries on subjectivity. “I was heavily inspired by how we, as humans, perceive others around us. Specifically how people conjure an understanding of someone strictly based on their exterior features,” says Jett.

The four images were digitally captured, edited and then printed on metallic gloss photo paper. “I stripped away emotional influences such as colour, to force the focus toward the elements of her environment,” says Jett. “It is up to the viewer to form their own opinion of who this person is.”

Top Arts Artist: Jorja Kavellaris

Jorja Kavellaris and a graphite artwork showing a close-up of a woman’s face. She’s using her hand to squash her cheek causing her eye to close. 
Jorja Kavellaris, Alexia, 2023, graphite on paper, coloured fibre-tipped pens, coloured pastels, 45.0 x 35.0 cm, Loreto Mandeville Hall, Toorak, Wurundjeri Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

Jorja’s Alexia subverts the conventional feminine muse to challenge the “oppressive patriarchal confines” of society. “Through history, men have typically been the one to depict women, not necessarily in a bad manner; however, it was still through the entrapment of the male gaze,” says Jorja. “As this frustrated me, I harnessed these emotions as a point of departure to display an unconventional grotesque interpretation of the same subject,” she says.

Jorja first photographed her sister, Alexia, to capture her reference image. “The most satisfying stage of my process was creating the physical distortion of my model’s face, she says.” Experimenting with different surfaces to press her face against to convey the symbolism of being entrapped.” Jorja completed the artwork using PanPastel, graphite and Posca markers for highlights.

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Top Arts Artist: Kate Jing

Kate Jing and two oil paintings: one of a young boy and one of a young girl. They are both standing in front of an orange background holding a bird figurine. 
Kate Jing, Portraits of my siblings, 2023, oil on canvas, 60.0 x 46.0 cm (x 2), Alkira Secondary College, Cranbourne North, Boonwurrung Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa

Kate’s Portraits of my siblings fondly portrays her two younger siblings. “I was inspired by art that can convey moods and emotions with no explanation,” says Kate. “The other major inspiration are my younger siblings; their joyfulness and curiosity in life amazed me a lot. I wanted to capture their childhood joy and innocence.”

Kate toned her canvas with rich, autumnal colours to mimic the light and shade of the afternoon sun. “Beauty in light is a big source of inspiration: the way light interacts with everything and the different moods it can bring,” says Kate. 

Top Arts Artist: Luca D’Angelo

Luca D'Angelo and an oil painting of fingers pressing into a cheek.  
Luca D'Angelo, Trueskin, 2023, oil on canvas, 91.0 x 60.8 cm, Mazenod College, Mulgrave, Wurundjeri Country. Photography: Margund Sallowsky and Tim Carrafa 

Luca’s Trueskin confronts masculine stereotypes encountered in society. Depicting an extreme close-up of a pinched cheek, the self-portrait embodies a moment of criticising oneself against societal pressures and stereotypes. “I realised that my peers around me would have likely faced pressure at some point to adhere to masculine behavioural codes,” says Luca.

“Overcoming my perfectionism was challenging in the initial stages,” he says. “However, by relying less on my reference image, I found I had more creative freedom and confidence in my medium and its capabilities.”

Top Arts 2024 is on display at Melbourne’s The Ian Potter Centre until 14 July 2024. In partnership with the NGV, the Officeworks Creativity Award will be presented for the most creative use of materials on 11 July 2024.