Next Gen '13 at the Art Gallery of Ballarat

An interactive installation inspired by Plato and an intricate display of aluminium bunny rabbits - these were just two of the many artworks created by Victorian Year 12 students, on show at the Art Gallery of Ballarat this year.

Next Gen is an art exhibition held every year at the country gallery. It displays the artworks of VCE Art, Studio Arts, Design and Technology, Media, and Visual Communication and Design students, from schools mostly in the Ballarat and Grampians areas.

The exhibition has been running for 18 years. 75 artists had work displayed in the 2013 exhibit, from an applicant pool of more than 300.

Unlike most student art exhibitions that select works to display based on merit and grades, Next Gen strives to include a wide variety of artwork. The focus is on diversity of artworks, as well as quality.

Courtney McMahon and Hannah Czurlowski are two artists whose work was exhibited at Next Gen ’13. Czurlowski made a collection of bunnies out of aluminium soft drink cans, along with a carrot hanging from the ceiling. McMahon created an installation called "The Cave", which also won the New Media Art Award at Next Gen’s awards night.

“It was inspired by Plato’s Cave,” McMahon said of her artwork, explaining that it revolves around the idea that “the world around us that we perceive isn’t real and that there’s a higher reality outside of what we perceive with our senses.” She attached handcuffs to a wooden chair, which faces a wall with a video projected onto it. The video is filled with “shadows and a voiceover that’s sort of the conflicting voices in yourself, trying to figure out what’s real and what isn’t,” McMahon said.

Czurlowski was inspired by a few different things: “I have always had an appreciation for art made of cans, and I have always loved animals.” She said that her artwork “took a while to plan because I had to come up with a template that worked for my piece.” The rabbits were made by cutting up aluminium soft drink cans and using a hot glue gun to piece them together. “It took about an hour to make each rabbit; I ended up making at least 25.” She also wanted something she wouldn’t get bored of, so that she’d constantly have new ideas. Her love for animals led to a theme of wildlife for the artwork.

Both artists felt excited about having their work displayed in a gallery, especially since it is such a rare opportunity for people of their age.

McMahon described winning the New Media Award — on top of being in the exhibition — as “awesome” and said that she felt proud of it and happy that her work was being acknowledged. “It’s good to have something to show for it,” she said.

Audrey Brown, director of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Ballarat, and keynote speaker for Next Gen ’13 described the opening night as “a very well-attended opening.”

“For the young people and the artists themselves, it’s a great honour to see their work hung, it’s an experience that many young artists wouldn’t have had,” she said. “So it’s a great credit both to the artists and to the Ballarat art gallery that they provide that opportunity for young people. It really is what being a country gallery is all about.”