Curated by long-serving VCA art lecturer Dr Elizabeth Gower, ‘9 X 5 NOW’ is a unique exhibition spanning multiple generations of Australian artists – from Helen Maudsley and Murray Walker, who studied at the National Gallery School in the 1940s, to emerging artists who completed studies at the VCA just one year ago.
The ‘9 X 5’ exhibition title and concept references the famous ‘9 by 5 Impression Exhibition’ held in Melbourne in 1889. All seven artists in that exhibition (Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, Charles Conder, C Douglas Richardson, R.E. Falls and Herbert Daly) had studied at the National Gallery School, and it was one of the first ‘artist run’ exhibition initiatives in Melbourne. The show comprised a collection of paintings on 9 x 5 inch cedar cigar box lids.
For ‘9 X 5 NOW’, each contributing artist was supplied with a 9 x 5 inch (23 x 13 cm) plywood board, resulting in a show diverse in style and media, but consistent in its format. The works included have been received from across Australia and overseas, and include photography, drawing, painting and mixed media. Over 300 artists are involved (!!), including Emily Floyd, Emily Ferretti, Fred Fowler, Jon Campbell, Patricia Piccinini, Minna Gilligan, Kate Tucker, Esther Stewart, Tai Snaith and many more!
‘The criteria was to showcase a sampling of staff and alumni,’ explains curator, Elizabeth Gower. ‘It is not a precise catalogue of graduates and staff, but merely a sampling, and there are many artists who are not in the show. I could have included 3000 if there was space.’
This immense undertaking has not been without its challenges, Elizabeth recounts endless emails, conversations with almost 350 artists, and mountains of paper work. On the flipside, it’s been one of her most rewarding projects to date. ‘The artists have told me fantastic stories and memories of their time at VCA,’ she says. ‘The spirit of generosity and excitement in doing the project has been uplifting, they have said how they still think fondly of their time at VCA as a life changing and affirming experience.’
9 X 5 NOW exhibition artworks are available to purchase, starting at $500, with funds raised going towards the establishment of an ART150 scholarship.