Tag Archives: art criticism

H.S.C – Have.Some.Care

You know those blog posts that you dream about… you are going to nail it… all those thoughts that have been washing through your head and are now in writing…! YES! That is this one! A long awaited post that is well overdue…!

After marking the HSC Visual Arts Written Exams, I had many frustrations running through my head.

Piles and piles of exam papers regurgitated pre-learned essays/artists/ideas. Our Syllabus requires us to teach case studies.

investigation of content through at least 5 case studies in art criticism and art history

The content is driven by the teachers strengths and interests, and most teachers try to cover an array of artists. Some case studies are also student research based, so that they can have autonomy over their learning and find artists that interest them and support their art making.

Well, this is the goal anyway….

It was evident that deep learning and understanding was lacking in some responses. It seems that some students think that HSC Art is only about the art making and not about the written component… Now, this is not a criticism on any teachers – more on the role of the HSC exam in their learning.


But feel there is a disconnect in the content that I have to teach and the end exam. How can learning and understanding from 5 case studies… which should be approximately 15 different artists…  be represented in a 1 ½ hour exam? The questions ask the students to make sophisticated links between artists and ideas. They must understand not only the aesthetic qualities of the work, but the conceptual practice of the artist and the world influences on their work.

I know that no matter what happens, we are controlled by the Syllabus and there will probably be some sort of quantitative tool used to evaluate a students learning as the endpoint… But I also want my kids to have a visual language and understanding of the art world that goes beyond an exam.

After seeing the Picasso exhibition yesterday, my teaching values are even firmer in my mind. I don’t want all my students responding to the exam with the same wrote learned artists. I want them to be involved in the work of the artists that they know – so much so that any question thrown at them they will be able to make links and develop an argument.

Don’t you just love my holiday romanticized view of Teaching!?

But what does this have to do with Picasso???

Well… just as the HSC exam questions required the students to make links, develop arguments, draw conclusions, recognise the impact the world has on art and do all this in a short space of time.. when seeing the audience viewing the Picasso exhibition, I am sure many were confused, didn’t know how to react, but thought cause he is famous and the work was in a gallery it was art. But were they all able to EVALUATE his artistic practice and realise the importance of all his processes. I want my students to be able to engage in a meaningful dialogue about art beyond the HSC exam.

Portrait of Olga in an armchair, 1918

Not all his works were good and not all works were ‘typical’ Picasso. His body of worked developed and changed in response to the world around him. Picasso experimented with different approaches to the picture plane and was confident in his own aesthetic. He was a talented artist, but was also smart enough to be able to challenge the traditional artistic conventions. Picasso’s oeuvre ebbed and changed as he tried new things and figured out what worked for him. He did not let anyone sway him and continued the Cubist style throughout his lifetime. It was evident when looking at Picasso’s work that he has awareness of the art world around him. His work did not exist in a vacuum. The aim of studying HSC art is to develop creative thinking and problem solving skills that help you to respond to the visual world around you.


Visual Arts at Stage 6 is designed to enable students to:

•      gain increasing intellectual autonomy in their abilities to aesthetically and persuasively represent ideas in the visual arts; and

•      understand and value how the field of the visual arts is subject to different interpretations.

Picasso’s work shows an awareness of the world around him, and his response was to turn it on it’s head.

Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe, Manet

‘The déjeuner sur l’herbe’ after Manet, 1961, Picasso


When a student sits the HSC exam, it is like a Picasso –

Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937

you have to look at the question for a while, consider everything you know, turn it upside down and inside out… extrapolate what they are really asking of you, minus the number you first started with, use evidence to support your findings and write an essay that actually means something to you.

After the HSC, you are not going to have to write an essay, but you will probably go into an art gallery and engage in a dialogue about the art you are viewing. I hope that my students can do that meaningfully and with passion when they leave my classroom!


image retrieved from http://everything-underthe-sun.blogspot.com/2011/05/exams-at-iit-described-in-funny-style.html#.Tw4gv96z6Qo
image retrieved from http://www.robinchung.com/top-5-sources-of-daily-frustration/ 
image reference http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/picasso/room-by-room/return-to-classicism/
image reference http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/picasso/room-by-room/anxieties-love-war/
image reference http://www.ululating-undulating-ungulate.com/category/art-appreciation/aesthetics/
image reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Manet,_Edouard_-_Le_D%C3%A9jeuner_sur_l'Herbe_(The_Picnic)_(1).jpg
image reference http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2008/aug/27/art.france