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Top Arts and TOPshots

Two students of the Class of 2023 have been recognised for their exceptional creativity in the VCE visual arts. Jirra Abrahams-Fletcher (OW2023) has been selected to present his work at the Top Arts exhibition, an annual favourite on the NGV exhibition calendar, and Rhys Humphries (OW2023) has been selected as a finalist in TOPshots 2024 at the Museum of Australian Photography.

Top Arts showcases the exceptional work of students who have completed VCE Art or Studio Arts from around Victoria. It’s a dream come true for Jirra, who first visited the Top Arts exhibition in 2018, when he was a Year 7 student at Wesley. ’I remember seeing Top Arts for the first time and just being in awe. I couldn’t quite believe that students had their talents celebrated at such an esteemed level. Since then, it has been my target.’

Jirra’s work explores the complex relationship between how we see ourselves, and what society expects of us. Jirra wrote in his artist statement: ‘I explored the isolation and self-alienation experienced by individuals who fear judgement from society. They resort to masks, inadvertently projecting a negative image. Despite wearing ordinary clothes, they stand out.’

Jirra and his family at a campus art exhibition

He was thrilled with his final VCE pieces. ‘The vision I’ve had in my mind since the start of the year has well and truly been achieved. I am thrilled! I have been holding onto a very specific aesthetic, feeling and atmosphere that I’ve wanted to portray, and I think I have done exactly that.’

While he has had opportunities to exhibit his work as part of the Wesley visual arts program, being selected for a professional level exhibition at the state gallery provided a new level of recognition.

‘Getting into Top Arts was a dream come true and it is truly my greatest achievement,’ he says. Jirra hopes to find time to continue  making art once he begins an Arts degree at Monash University, as he finds it both motivating and fulfilling.

While his eyes are firmly on the future, he looks back with gratitude to his Wesley teachers. ‘I want to express my thanks to Ms Rowe, my art teacher, who was crucial to this success, and who shares my interest in sculpture and photography as mediums. I was supported by all of my teachers during Year 12, in particular, my tutorial teacher Ms Kurkowski and my Head of House, Ms Bennett. They helped me a lot through the difficulties of the year.’

'Shadow Symphony', by Rhys Humphries (OW2023)

The Museum of Australian Photography will kick off their annual celebration of emerging photo media artists on 27 March, marking the 16th anniversary of this exhibition. Rhys Humphries (OW2023) has been selected as a finalist.

The exhibition is described as just a small sample of the creative talent emerging from Melbourne’s secondary schools, and will include Rhys’ piece Shadow Symphony from his series In the velvet web, which he shot as part of VCE Art Creative Practice.

Rhys is going to continue pursuing photography and has gained entry into the photo media course at RMIT.

Congratulations to both Jirra and Rhys. Another stunning success from the Class of 2023!