Fintona’s Art Faculty recently welcomed back alumna Grace Stevenson as our artist in residence. Grace attended Fintona from Year 2 and graduated in 2019. After successfully completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at the Victorian College of The Arts (VCA), Grace is now completing her Honours Degree through the VCA.
‘Grace’s role as artist in residence has had a positive impact on the students, particularly in helping to dispel the myth of who can be an artist and importantly, what an artist actually does. Being an old girl, her time here highlighted potential tertiary and professional career paths for students who are considering moving on to an art and design field post Fintona. Grace’s involvement with a number of classes, across the different campuses also supported students to broaden their technical and conceptual grasp of production techniques and materials.’
Brit Biviano, Art Learning Leader.
Grace, as a former student of Fintona, how did it feel to return as the School’s artist in residence?
It was surreal and nostalgic to return to Fintona, and such a privilege to be the artist in residence at the school. It was very exciting to see the other side of school, working as a teacher rather than being the student. It was such an enjoyable and memorable experience being back at Fintona, and to work with staff and teach students in familiar surroundings.
Can you tell us about the portraits you were commissioned to paint? What was the selection process and what were your goals in creating the paintings?
The portraits were made from the photos of two past students I found in Fintona’s archival collection. When I was searching for past students to paint, I was mainly looking for students in the old uniform, with clear symbols of Fintona. I wanted the portraits to represent Fintona’s past as well as bring them into the present day to act as a symbol for the ‘Fintona Girl’.
Your work combines portraiture and colours in a unique way. What drew you to this artistic approach?
I use glazes of colour in my portraits to give them more life. I first trialled this technique when I learnt about the ‘hand colouring’ technique used by photographers in the 19th century. The photographer would go back into the black and white photograph with inks and paints and add in subtle hints of colour to the photo to make it look more ‘life-like’.
Is there a particular message or emotion you hope to evoke in viewers through your artwork?
My artwork currently focuses on exploring human identity and mortality. My intention is to provoke thought and question what it means to be human. My portraits for the school embody this, as the portraits of past students are brought to life again and evoke an emotional response in viewers.
Are there any artists or artistic movements that have had a significant impact on your work? How have they influenced your artistic growth and exploration?
Gerhard Richter has had a significant impact on my work through his ideas of masking identity and his use of the found image. I am also inspired by the artist Michael Slusakowicz, who creates surreal portraits through his use of bright, artificial colours.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists at Fintona?
To pursue your passion to become an artist. Keep practising and never be afraid to experiment or make mistakes. This is how you grow as an artist and learn about what your true artistic goals are.
What are your future artistic goals and aspirations? Are there any upcoming projects or themes you are particularly excited to explore in your work?
I hope to be in more shows, continuing to share my art with the world and gain more exposure in the art community. I am currently looking at themes surrounding human identity and how portraiture can immortalise us, and I am excited to be in a few upcoming art shows to explore these ideas further.
How can the Fintona community learn more about you and your work?
If you want to learn more or follow my artistic journey, the best way would be through social media. My Instagram — @grace.s1 shows all of my artwork and any current shows I am in.