16 February 2024

Riverina students chosen to showcase their work in NSW Art Gallery's ARTEXPRESS exhibition

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Piper Stewart and Corvette O’Keeffe

Riverina students Corvette O’Keeffe and Piper Stewart at the opening of the ARTEXPRESS 2024 exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photo: Mim Stirling – Art Gallery of NSW.

Two Riverina students have been selected to exhibit their artworks at the Art Gallery of NSW’s annual ARTEXPRESS.

ARTEXPRESS is the gallery’s annual showcase of outstanding student artworks developed for the art-making component of their HSC Visual Arts examination.

Piper Stewart from Murrumbidgee Regional High School was selected for her textile and fibre works titled Woven Together and her personal response to the mistreatment and misinterpretation of Aboriginal culture since colonisation.

Piper was filled with excitement when she found out her artwork was chosen.

“I was blown away,” said Piper.

“It was exciting knowing all the hard work, effort and time I put into my work can now be displayed in the gallery with other amazing artworks.

“My art teacher [Doerinda Gardener] through Years 11 and 12 told me if I just keep trying and stick to what I’m good at, I will get in. She’s a past HSC marker and a great art teacher, so I trusted her.”

Piper Stewart

Piper Stewart with her work Woven Together at the art gallery. Photo: Mim Stirling – Art Gallery of NSW.

The 18-year-old was on a family holiday in the Northern Territory, exploring and connecting to her Aboriginal culture, when she got the inspiration for her artwork.

“I had the opportunity to participate in traditional basket weaving workshops … it was good knowing I could connect my culture with something I was passionate about, which is art,” Piper said.

“Because it was part of my culture, it was a way of connecting to my ancestors and cultures by weaving traditional practices.

The born and bred Griffith artist is set to pursue paramedicine at university and hopes to become a paramedic in her hometown.

“I’ve always wanted to become a paramedic. The art is a hobby. My mum has always painted, and she’s a local artist. I’ve always grown up watching her do traditional art.”

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Piper’s major work was also partly inspired and influenced by The British Museum’s Ancestors, artefacts, empire – mobilising Aboriginal objects.

“[The book] describes how The British Museum holds many valuable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage artefacts, including some of my family’s artefacts.

“It also explored the issues of colonisation and the interactions between Aboriginal people and the colonists. Most artefacts owned and displayed in The British Museum are unknown, rarely seen and poorly understood.

“These artefacts were gifted, sold, exchanged and bartered by Indigenous people, and accepted, bought, collected and taken by travellers, colonists, explorers, missionaries, officials and others.”

Piper explained the incorporation of those powerful words with her weaving, demonstrated how Aboriginal culture had been mistreated and misinterpreted since colonisation.

Corvette O'Keeffe

Corvette O’Keeffe, with her work The Art of Persistence, at the art gallery. Photo: Mim Stirling – Art Gallery of NSW.

Corvette O’Keeffe from Xavier High School was selected for her sculpture The Art of Persistence, which explores the mythology of the phoenix as a symbol of persistence and determination.

Corvette was incredibly proud of herself when she found out her work was selected.

“It was definitely a struggle but rewarding,” Corvette said.

“I loved it when my work was shown at my school and how people engaged with it.

“A young girl looked at my work and said she loved the dragon. My work is a phoenix, but she interpreted it differently and took joy from it.”

The young artist’s sculpture came to fruition from her full-scale drawing of a phoenix, inspired by the paper sculpture artist Jeff Nishinaka and gunpowder drawing.

“My artwork focuses on how accomplishments are often born from ashes of hardship and adversity and reborn stronger on the other side.”

Corvette said creating her major artwork was a challenge.

“It was a challenge to decipher how the pieces conjoined together to form an intricate but also transcending from the wall mythical creature whilst concealing the strong yet shiny super glue.

“The fusion of handcraft and technology formed the sculpture.”

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Corvette explained she drew each feather piece, then scanned, traced and layered each one in Adobe Illustrator with quotes from accomplished individuals who overcame adversity.

Corvette was born in Western Australia and spent her childhood in Queensland before moving to Albury in 2010 to spend more time with her father’s side of the family.

The 20-year-old will return to Queensland this year and take a gap year to travel.

ARTEXPRESS 2024 features 50 works selected from 8660 submissions by students from regional and metropolitan areas and government and non-government schools and highlights the strength of young artistic talent from across NSW. The exhibition includes works across all expressive forms of the HSC Visual Arts curriculum. It charts a breadth of topics impacting young Australians, revealing common themes of identity, family, cultural heritage, place and home.

Their artworks are now on exhibition in the gallery’s historic South Building until 21 April.

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