Haylee Mills was given the best 18th birthday present on Wednesday night after being told her HSC artwork would be hanging on the wall of the Art Gallery of NSW as part of its ARTEXPRESS 2021 exhibition.
The Callaghan College, Jesmond Campus, student was one of 23 public school students told her work would feature in the exhibition that runs until April 5.
Haylee’s painting entitled ‘Aboriginal Bush Medicine’ was one of 48 artworks selected from 8,617 regional and metropolitan 2020 HSC NSW students works.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s launch Haylee said she was “very excited and shocked” to have been included in the prestigious exhibition that has launched the careers of artists such as Ben Quilty.
“I didn’t expect it at all as I’m not very open about my art,” she said.
Haylee’s series of paintings required her to research traditional bush medicines and connect with the local Aboriginal community over the protocols of representing the knowledge on canvas.
“It is such sacred knowledge that you have to be very careful to follow the right process,” she said.
Jesmond Campus Aboriginal Liaison Officer Alex Nean played a critical role in supporting her in the journey, Haylee added.
She also paid tribute to her art teacher Shane Nipper who had “respected the work and helped express my culture”.
Haylee, who watched the launch with family and friends while celebrating her birthday, said art played a key role in connecting to her culture.
“As a light-skinned Aboriginal person you don’t get acknowledged a lot.
“I’m heavily accepted in the community, but I express my feelings about my Aboriginal culture through art and dance,” she said.
Art Gallery of NSW director Dr Michael Brand commended the Class of 2020 for creating their body of artwork, during one of the most challenging years on record.
“Creative pursuits can provide great comfort in difficult times and it is our hope that this year’s cohort found solace in their artmaking, as well as a sense of defiance,” Dr Brand said.
“The high standard of work on show is a testament to the tremendous talent and resilience of students and teachers in NSW who adapted to change and overcame challenges – from bushfires to the pandemic – to complete their studies.
“We are delighted to share their work with the thousands of visitors who look forward to this annual exhibition, which has become one of our most popular.”
The exceptional bodies of work represent a broad range of approaches across a range of art forms, including painting, drawing, photo-media, sculpture, ceramics, time-based works, documented form, printmaking, textiles and fibre and graphic design.
Art Gallery of NSW curator of ARTEXPRESS 2021 Louise Halpin said this year’s exhibition offered an insight into the hearts and minds of young people during a very difficult year.
“ARTEXPRESS 2021 is a showcase of extraordinary bodies of work exploring a range of both global and deeply personal themes – from the environment, urban life and beauty of the natural world to identity, relationships and reflection on the 2020 experience,” Ms Halpin said.