HSC Critique - Responding to Section 1

This is the core part of the examination in which every Visual Arts student must respond to question 1.

Basically it is broken up into three parts in which as the mark value for each part of the question goes higher, so too does the complexity of the question. The past three examinations have been structured accordingly.

1a - 5 marks (a suggestion of 10 minutes to respond to the question)
1b - 8 marks (a suggestion of 15 minutes to respond to the question)
1c - 12 marks (a suggestion of 20 minutes to respond to the question)

Students need to be made aware that the questions are designed to differentiate the student’s ability to apply their knowledge of Visual Arts to the question. This translates to the harder the question the more marks awarded.

Students should note that the mark value for section 1 might change, so it is advisable to scrutinise the mark values and the suggested response time carefully. Question 1 (parts a, b & c) should be completed in 45 minutes. This is half the time for the examination and the total mark for section 1 is 25 marks, this leaves 45 minutes for section 2. As each section is worth 25 marks, equal time should be spent.

Section 1 is designed to test your understanding of the content of the Visual Arts syllabus, in which you are to identify correctly the demands of the question in terms of the content of the syllabus and you application of your knowledge to the plates and /or diagrams and text extract(s). So this section will test you on your employment and knowledge of the Conceptual Frameworks, Frames and Practice. There is no particular order and they may change from year to year. So a thorough knowledge is necessary.

Question 1a

Each question will require a response that utilise the content of the syllabus, that is to say, for a 1a type question it may ask for the effective use of the subjective frame to discuss “psychological elements” in an artwork (eg Edvard Munch’s The Scream).

Each question may incrementally increase in mark value; therefore the first one is the easiest. Be mindful to address the demands of the question and answer it in the suggested time. Brief and concise response that addresses all the demands of the question is what is expected from the student. Most students find the most difficult thing is identifying which component of the Visual Arts Syllabus (Conceptual Frameworks, Frames and Practice) is being asked.

Key points in Section 1

In responding to the question consider these three point of information:

  • 1. The question, identify if it related to Frames / Conceptual Framework / Practice, and what it demands in your response.

  • 2. The citation, under the image is very important because it provides a great deal of information that many students disregard. Look for clues within the title of the work, the date it was completed, size and medium. All this information provides a lot of information to assist with your response

  • 3. The image itself, ensure you do not just describe it but rather interpret and evaluation in relation to what the question asks.

  • Example

    Question 1a - 5 marks (10 minutes)

    Outline social issues that conveyed in this artwork

    (Awaiting approval of image)

    Plate 1

    Rew Hanks, Linoblock

    In response to this question;

  • 1. It is asking about the Cultural frame as it focuses upon social issues, which relates to the values and beliefs of society. It demands a response that articulates what the issues are, that are being examined in the artwork.

  • 2. The citation provides information in terms of the title which is an ironic paly upon the use of genetic engineering to bring back to life the extinct Thylacine. The work is linoblock, which is an interesting juxtaposition to the scientific theme being explored. The date demonstrates that this work is informed by postmodern theories and contemporary approaches to art making.

  • 3. The work depicts a Thylacine that appears as the logo for Cascade beer, Rew makes a cutting remark about science, genetic engineering, marketing and mixes this with a cutting humour. The properties are graphically strong providing a direct message about the issue.

  • The student response;

    The contemporary artist Rew Hank’s provides a graphically compelling account of the current issues of scientific development in genetic engineering and the potential of bringing extinct animals such as the Tasmanian tiger (the thylacine) back to life. As in the pun employed as the title “Old Blue Eyes is back” Hank graphic design alludes to other issues such as the ethical dilemma and ownership of such technology, but the artist only highlights this being careful not to be didactic and lets the audience make their own assessment. The use of the Cascade beer logo alludes to the marketability of such future technology and playfully the boundaries between such issues as extinction / creative, science / nature and commercial / fine arts. The artist uses appropriation to also explore the issue of originality in postmodern art practice and the methodology of cloning itself.


    The student has address the question in terms of providing a summary of social issues that can be interpreted from the citation and image. The student identifies the most immediate in terms of cloning and its impact to extinct Australian animals. But it goes further to identify that the artist only proposes issues and allows the viewer to judge the significance. The response also highlights broader ethical issues and tellingly highlights that the image is an appropriation of a beer logo bringing into account an aesthetic issue posed by the artist.

    Question 1b - 8 marks (15 minutes)

    Discuss the practice of contemporary architecture.

    Plate 2 and 3 - Federation Square (interior and exterior) 1997- 2001, Melbourne, Australia.

    Plate 4 - Aurora Place, Renzo Piano, 2002, Sydney, Australia.

    Text Extract

    “ Architecture in Australia today is undergoing radical and exciting evolution in which forms and structures are departing from the old modernist dictum of ‘Form follows Function’. Designs such as Federation Square and Aurora Place make exceptional used of computer aided design to extend the language of architecture.”

    R. Hinds – Architect

    In response to this question

  • 1. It is asking about the students understanding of the practice of architects and their approach to designing buildings. The demands of the question require a response that provides an overview about key aspects attributed to making contemporary buildings.
  • 2. The citation provides information in terms of the architectural forms are public buildings that have been constructed in the postmodern age. Both designs employ a variety of materials in the construction of the work. The two images are situated in two key cities along the eastern seaboard of Australia.
  • 3.The images highlight the contemporaneous nature of the design; both buildings create their own environment and highlight the architects confidence and personal style. The text extract demonstrates the significance of technology in terms of the use of computer-aided design to further explore the material properties and the creative potential of the design.
  • For more information look at:



    The student response

    Functionality, which has always been the mandate of design, has evolved within postmodern architecture by a synthesis of revolutionary materials and a boldness of form. For both Renzo Piano who designed Aurora Place, Sydney and the design groups Lab Architecture Studio and Bates Smart Architects who collaboratively designed Federation Square, Melbourne, these architects realise the importance of designing a iconic form that was revolution in the use of space and function. Aurora Place function both as commercial site and residential space, the design reflects the modernist use of glass but provides freer sculptural qualities to their structure of the past. The use of glass and ceramic tiles present a more naturalistic quality to the design. Being situated in the city of densely populated Sydney, Aurora Place make excellent use of space and acts as a monumental sculpture within the skyline of the city.

    Federation Square offers a different approach to contemporary architecture in term of its purpose and use. The design team is deals with constructing a sculpturing form that is intriguing, resembling fractal geometry. Federation Square utilised technology to construct a form that does not appear to be a public building whilst it is a functional site, a cultural centre it appear more like a monumental abstract sculpture. The architects made no obvious entrance to the structure but rather promote a sense of exploration in which the entrances are discovered. Functionality is coupled with interactivity in terms of promoting a dynamic engagement with the design. This structure houses a number of galleries, shops, a garden and cinema, but from its exterior there is no evidence of its function.

    Both designs reveal a sophisticated use of technology in the construction and planning of these designs, structural forms inventively employed and appear to have little in relationship to grand modernist architecture such as Blues Point Tower, Sydney by Seidler. In these two designs the contemporary architects seek to negotiate their construction with the environment, the forms compliment their placement and actively interact with the space. The sculptural properties of Aurora break the monotony of the skyline and the use of glass facade presents a delicate form. The use of materials such as copper and untreated iron in Federation Square reflects the constantly changing appearance of the form as the copper oxidises and the surface of the iron rusts. Both designs seek to redefine the tradition of architectural practice in terms of form and the use of materials; the designs have become landmarks and echo the significance of their function and the importance of postmodern architects to extend the language of contemporary architectural design.


    This response has used all the information available in the images and citations; it boldly situates an understanding of contemporary architecture. It situates the practice of the architects and then substantiates this in the evaluation of the structures. Whilst the student do not have a thorough knowledge of architecture, they demonstrate a knowledge of practice and bring into account another architect and makes historical and stylistic comparison to support the aims of contemporary architecture. Information from the text extract has provided a formation of information but the student has not just cut and copied the information.

    Question 1c - 12 marks (20 minutes)

    Critically analyse the significance of public art and it impact on their viewer.

    Refer to the text extract and plates.

    “Good public sculptures make the inhabitants of a city or town stop and consider, they intentionally hold the pedestrian to ransom for a small moment in time before they continue upon their way. Like all art of notoriety it calls upon the viewer to consider it and in turn to consider its surrounding environment”

    N. Kozma – Art Write


    Plate 5 - Brett Whiteley, Almost Once, 1968/1991, Fibreglass and Blackbutt wood,
    Gift to the NSW Art Gallery, Situated outside the Art Gallery of NSW. Sydney, Australia


    Plate 6 - Alexander Calder, Crossed Blades, 1967, Steel,
    Situated in Australia Square, Sydney, Australia.


    Plate 7 - Gilbert Bayes, Offering of War, 1923, Bronze,
    Situated outside the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Australia.

    Student response

    The strategy for public sculpture is exactly what the description entails, it is a form of art that is not hidden away in the galleries or museums but rather artforms that are freely enjoyed by the general public. As seen in plates 5, 6 and 7 there is not specific arbitration of selection that is seen within a specific show held in an art gallery. Within the plates it can be noted that the pieces have been place in period of decades suggesting the curatorial practice for public sculpture within the plates is one that is not controlled by a single curator but rather a number of individual who desire to make a connection between the general public and the artworks.

    By an assessment of the dates the works were completed these public sculpture provide an archive of taste and perception. Each artwork is sculptural in form and differs in stylistic qualities from the realistic sculpture which is a memorial to the dead which is situated outside the front of the NSW Art Gallery to be Abstract sculpture of Calder which is situated outside Australia Square to the conceptually engaging sculpture by Brett Whiteley titled Almost Once. Uniting these sculptural works is the commonality of scale in which the work would be hard pressed to fit within the gallery space. Instead these works by virtue of their sheer size and presence create their own environment and compliment the wider surroundings. Each sculpture by virtue of this blurring of its physical space with that shared by the general public makes anyone within their vicinity an audience.

    The concept of monumental scale that employed by all three artworks implies that the physical space of Sydney can operate as a gallery space and have a radical impact on people who would never consider going to an art gallery. The art writer Kozma identifies this nexus between the public artwork and the public," good public sculpture… holds the pedestrian to ransom…” He suggests that effective public art as in the case of Plates 4, 5 & 6 gets noticed by virtue of is artistic qualities and appropriate placement in the environment. This highlights the importance of the interaction between the audience and the artwork, in which the artwork must both visually and spatially command the attention of the audience in an dynamic and ever changing environment.

    Plate 4 is a memorial for the dead from WW1; it is a testimony to loss and the quiet strength of resolution and remembrance. Both horse and rider are stoic and monumental. The rider is dressed in classical armour alluding to a metaphor to the history of aggression and the noble cause of global conflict. This work does not present an alternative view of such a conflict, it is directed as a tribute of a supreme sacrifice, rather than being victims of a mechanise war as depicted by Dada and Germ and Expressionist artists. The sculpture alludes to the nobility of the human form and classical values, by virtue of it realistic style.

    No less grand in scale but constructed for an entirely different purpose is Minatour by Calder, although this alludes to classical mythology its stylistic is radically different and reflects the modernist approach to abstraction. This is synthetic cubism in three dimensions and engages the public to physically interact with the artwork by walking through it. The black mass focuses the attention onto its form and place in the environment. It flattens the surround building to construct a view form across the street, not dissimilar to Braque or Picasso painting. The elongated curves and voids provide a complimentary juxtaposition with the rectangular forms of window and buildings. As Kozma points out it is such artworks that in turn make the audience reconsider the environment of the everyday.

    The game of perception and tricking the pedestrian to view the artwork is masterfully constructed in Whiteley’s Almost Once, in this work the micro object of a match stick becomes a giant play thing, it renders the viewer small and insignificant. The artist challenges interpretation by the use of the scale and the selection of the subject matter. The matchstick operates as symbols of life and death; its ephemeral quality can ‘literally go up just as a match’. The use of such an object references the use of commercial object by the pop artists, but this work is postmodern as it challenges and makes effective use of irony to convey it existential account of life. The title provides no further clue of the intention of the artist and only further reinforces the acknowledgment of the power of the viewer to gleam the conceptual meaning by themselves.

    All three artworks establish a strategy of seduction by means of scale, use of site and stylisation of form. Each work provides an account of a time and reflects artist beliefs for.. It is one of remembrance, for Calder it is treatment of the cityscape as a background for his abstract forms to play and punctuate a visual uniqueness in the everyday. Whiteley treated his artwork also with a sense of play, with the object, scale and meaning. All three artworks transform everyday spaces into marvellous environments that invite the audience to daydream for a moment as they move through their daily routine of business or leisure within Sydney.


    This is a solid response, which uses all information provided by the situation, text extract and images. It acknowledges that through critical analysis the artworks are evaluated and interpreted in terms of their relationship with the audience. The response introduces and contextualises how the essay will respond to the question. It analyses each artwork and then articulates the key feature of the relationship between the audience and the artworks. In all the artworks the student makes a stylistic comparison with an art movement that is appropriate to provide a deeper understanding of the work.

    The student whilst analysing the artworks does not ignore the demands of the question in terms of evaluating the relationship of the audience and the artwork. In a stylish conclusion the student suggest that the artworks provide respite in the busy city to daydream.

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