Proud: an exhibition for students, by students

Sean Michael McDowell is one of four VCA Art students who have curated Proud 2017, an annual exhibition showcasing work by current students. Find out why Sean chose VCA, what he's learned at art school so far and what to expect in this year's instalment of the annual exhibition at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery.

By Paul Dalgarno

Hi Sean, can you tell us about Proud? What is it? What can people expect?

Proud is a student-curated exhibition that showcases the work of current students at the Victorian College of the Arts. This years’ exhibition has been curated by Ariane Jaccarini, Beth Downing, Emily Norton and myself. Now in its twentieth year, the exhibition allows for the work of emerging artists to be enjoyed by the public and wider arts community in Melbourne. Proud has become a large part of the VCA calendar, as it allows for students to exhibit their work in an established gallery alongside their peers. Proud 2017 also involves over 15 prizes that will be awarded to selected students on the opening night. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of artworks including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and video. The size limit is restricted to 1 x 1meter, in order to allow a larger number of artists to be involved in the show.

Can you tell us a bit about your own arts practice?

My practice is interdisciplinary: it deals with a hybrid of both sculpture and painting. I am currently experimenting with actions of fitting objects together, which is a way of investigating materials. I am also interested in repositioning the function of manufactured objects. This has been done through materials including carpet underlay, metal piping, glass and wood, as well as enamel paint. My influences include architecture, interior design and hard-edge abstraction.

When and why did you choose to study at the VCA?

I started studying at VCA last year. I was first attracted by its reputation, as well as the recourses and general atmosphere of the place, which made it feel like it would be a good place to study.

How have you changed as an artist since being here?

I think that studying at VCA has definitely lead to a development in my practice. Being able to share your ideas and work with other like-minded people and knowledgeable lecturers is especially helpful. The facilities that I have access to also let me create work that I otherwise couldn’t do at home.

What themes do you see coming through in the work of your peers, current and emerging artists?

The current work of my peers is very broad and I don’t feel there is a particular theme that is especially prominent.

Is the idea of a “career” in art daunting?

It is slightly daunting, although I feel that it is definitely possible if you are highly determined and work extremely hard.

What are your plans for your career and practice after the VCA?

I may continue studying and do my honours. Otherwise, I would love to do an artist residency in Paris or somewhere else in Europe. I would also like to exhibit regularly, travel and eventually relocate to somewhere that offers more opportunities for artists.

Can you describe some of the works we’ll be able to see at Proud?

Visitors will be able to view a large number of artworks. You can expect to see paintings ranging from portraiture, abstraction and landscape to performances, sculptures and interdisciplinary works that may involve a combination of mediums and art forms.

Why should I come along to Proud?

Attending Proud 2017 will give you an insight into the work of a new generation. It will also give you the opportunity to support and encourage emerging artists, as a large majority of the artworks will be for sale. Otherwise, it is also a great space to socialise and enjoy some food or beverages.

Proud is at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Southbank, Melbourne, from 14–16 September.

Banner image: Brahmony McCrossin, Untitled (2017).

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