The ‘Creative Generation Excellence Awards for Visual Art 2023’ exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art is a space where the thoughts, feelings and concerns of young people from across Queensland are amplified. Art is their voice; a way to connect with audiences, to speak about the issues that are important to them and to share their stories.
Through their works, many young artists in ‘Creative Generation 2023’ seek to confront and challenge. Cooper Bell immediately asks us: ‘Have you been paying attention? To me? To my work? To the little things, the details?’ Bell’s work, Jacky-Winter 2022 (illustrated), is a representation of his totem in a medium he describes as a ‘paint/sculpture hybrid form of contemporary Indigenous art’ that emerged from his printmaking practice. Bell encourages us to slow down and pay attention: it is his culture that exists within those carved lines.
Eloise Gilbert’s work Aussie Created 2022 (illustrated) brings us face to face with the causes and effects of pollution on our waterways. Two surfboards together represent the human impact on the environment and Gilbert’s concerns for the future: one is covered in bleached coral forms, while the other carries found objects collected from beaches near where she lives south of Brisbane.
Through a series of brightly coloured portraits, Zoe Kamarinos (illustrated Control (detail) 2022) invites us to reflect on the controlling nature of obsession. Violent hands grab at each face, representing a controlling force, while the subjects’ calm expressions act as facades, hiding the negativity preoccupying their thoughts.
Emma Rawson-Harris similarly prompts us to question whether things are really as they appear. Her seemingly traditional works, in the style of the Australian impressionists, are in fact digital photographs of her paintings of AI-generated imagery of Daintree birds. As we struggle to distinguish ‘real’ from ‘computer-generated’, the artist leaves us wondering if perhaps our perceptions are artificially intelligent.
For other young artists, art is a conduit for sharing deeply personal stories and experiences. Diana Mwizero’s installation Erased 2022 (illustrated) reflects her struggle to protect and celebrate her Burundian identity while also yearning to belong. Since immigrating to Australia from Tanzania at the age of five, she describes her lived experience as ‘being too white to be black and yet too black to be white’. Despite the challenges, Mwizero believes that art has the power to transcend cultural barriers through the language of creativity.
In Letter to Home 2022 (illustrated), Xuanxuan Ke draws on the almost childlike notion of mailing herself back home to represent the longing she feels for her family and Chinese culture. Despite the sadness of her story (as told by her animal characters), the work centres on the importance of her connection to China, something that Xuanxuan notes she would not have realised had she never left.
Mikaylah Parker captures an important camping trip with her family, during which they were able to reconnect with Country. Her video work, Footsteps 2022 (illustrated), portrays the first time she and other family members had set foot on the land of her ancestors, Pompey Earl and Emily ‘Earl’ Nicol. The work interweaves Parker’s journey of discovering her identity with that of her Nana’s, a young Aboriginal woman living in Queensland in the 1920s.
A documentary approach is also evident in Angela Bevis’s Dear Diary, 2022; a series of images, projected onto a white background, share personal memories ranging from diary entries to abstract images and text. At its conclusion, Bevis addresses the viewer: ‘Now you have experienced my experiences and we are but a second closer to each other’.
The artists of ‘Creative Generation’ believe in the communicative power of art. They have something to say — a story to tell, an experience to share, a point of view to express. They ask only that we listen.
Rebecca Smith is Program Officer, Learning and Curriculum, QAGOMA
This article was originally published in the QAGOMA Members’ magazine, Artlines, no.2, 2023
‘Creative Generation 2023’ is on display in Gallery 2.1, GOMA, 22 April until 6 August 2023. The Creative Generation Excellence Awards in Visual Art is an initiative of the Queensland Department of Education, supported by QAGOMA.