Art Students Test New Ground with Jensen Tjhung
Jensen Tjhung was the 2014 P&F Association’s New Artist-in-Residence putting a new spin on the art-making process for boys from Years 8-11. The Melbourne-based artist whose works are known for challenging the art world’s status quo was accommodated at Newington College from Thursday 24 July to Saturday 6 September. In that time, he gave lectures in Old Boys Lecture Theatre to the entire Year 8 group; led screen printing and painting workshops, and workshopped with a select group of Years 9-11 boys to resolve ideas and present them in a rich body of work which opened at Concordia Gallery last Friday, 5 September.
The exhibition was called “Testing Ground”, a fitting name considering the encouragement the boys received from Jensen to explore new ways of thinking about and their own practice. Jensen’s enthusiasm motivated the boys to experiment and discover new artistic methods, and in some cases radically challenged the boys to question established ideas about artistic mediums, in particular drawing. Jensen introduced the boys to the power of Contemporary Art to move audiences who—upon seeing a new artwork—’actualise’ it within seconds.
Jensen suggested the boys explode both physically, and conceptually, the idea of the white canvas or drawing plane, including shooting a bullet through paper as a mark making exercise. This activity provided the starting point for more complex ideas around the meaning of art and how systems of belief can be shaken and changed.
Throughout this process boys noted that, “Jensen took us out of our comfort zone but it wasn’t uncomfortable.”
On the Opening Night, Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Aaron Seeto said that the conceptual and technical quality of the works produced was parallel with tertiary level students.
Jensen’s speech to the boys was inspiring and heartfelt. He spoke about each boy who had work hung up in the exhibition, and spoke about what each had achieved.
His final piece of advice to the boys was for them keep alive their ability to think as artists.
Recently two Year 11 boys were asked to speak about their experiences working with Jensen to a group of University of New South Wales Faculty of Art and Design students. When the group saw the level of sophistication in the Year 12 students’ works, one of them asked,
“It seems like you were able to overcome a lot of challenges through the lack of restriction in this project—is there anything you now fear in your artmaking?”
Rowan Smith (11/PR) stated: “The freedom was in the making, the challenge was in making it excellent.”
Our Year 11 boys went on to say that during the making of the project, a combination of having no assessment criteria or syllabus outcome, with having an artist mentor who provided unconditional support meant that they were given the rare opportunity to develop their own artist practice.
“With Jensen there was no wrong way or right way; just your way.” Lachlan Adams (11/FL)
Special thanks to the Head of Visual Arts, Mr Andrew Thompson, Mr Andrew Pawley, Mrs Marina Hinves and Mrs Katherine Francis for their support in this collaborative project. It is always a challenge to bring in new approaches and they are an incredible team to embrace these changes with so much energy and passion.
Thanks also to the Rifle Shooting staff at Newington College, Mr Karl Watson and Mr Greg Pike, who provided training and supervision in the initial stages of the project in the Rifle Range.
Ms Hannah Chapman
Concordia Gallery Curator