It is important to note that the theoretical component of Visual arts counts for 50% of your final mark. Therefore it is important to nail the essay writing and unseen plate component of the course as well as your major piece of work. Although there are many different possible case studies which could be used to answer one of the final questions there are some universal tips which may help boost your marks.
1. Know your frames, conceptual framework and artist practice
It is a given that in the exam you will be given a set of questions which come from these three Art frameworks. Therefore it is important to know what each component entails.
A summary of the requirements of each framework:
Subjective Frame: Personal, psychological experience – What are your first impressions?, How does it make you feel?
Postmodern Frame: Ideas that challenge the mainstream – Has the artwork been appropriated? Does it include irony?
Structural Frame: Communication, systems of signs – Describe the visual language, use of line, symbolism and colour etc.
Cultural frame: Cultural and social meanings – What cultural group or race is presented? What ideology is revealed.
Conceptual framework: The relations between the WORLD, AUDIENCE, ARTIST AND ARTWORK
Art Making – What procedures are used? How is meaning given to the Artwork? How are symbols and codes used?
Art History and Art Criticism – How do artists intend others to respond? How have other artists explored this concept? How has this idea within Art been expressed over time.
A tip for being able to quickly recognise which frame the question is coming from and what needs to be included would be to go through past paper questions and practice identifying what needs to be included in order to address the question.
2. Take an interest in certain artists or exhibitions.
Many previous questions in HSC Art exams have asked students to evaluate a single artist’s practice or components of a contemporary exhibition. It is important to stay up to date with relevant case studies and exhibitions so that you can provide interesting and useful information for the markers. If you do not do individual studies of artist’s in class you could easily complete a case study on an artist that you used as inspiration for your major work. This way you will learn more about the processes of the artist which may help you with your practical component and you could also use this information in the exam room. I would also encourage you to stay up to date with exhibitions and art museums. I was able to complete a case study comparing different art exhibition spaces within Sydney based on the Sydney Biennale. I found that studying art exhibition spaces applied very well to previous HSC questions.
3. Consolidate your knowledge on Artist movements.
Know at least 2 artists and examples of 2 artworks by each artist.
Many schools focus largely on movements such as Modernism and Feminism which is largely applicable to questions given in the HSC. It is great to be able to compare Artists who address similar content in different time periods however it is important that you know your artists well. For example for a case study in Feminism i would compare artists from each of the feminist movements and know at least 2 examples of artworks of theirs that address the topic of feminism. I would also note differences and similarities between each artist as this could be a useful analysis to include in your essay. It would be great if you could include artists who have different artist practices, making it easier to compare and contrast and add depth to your essay.
4. Structure your essay well and provide a direct and succinct Introduction and conclusion.
Because the HSC markers for Visual arts have to mark many different case studies it is important that your ideas are well organised and structured. Your introduction should address the question that you have chosen as well as components of the art framework it involves. If you are including artists you should name them and provide brief context of in relation to how they operate in terms of the question. Your body paragraphs should also be structured and i would encourage splitting them up in terms of artist and artwork in order to provide in depth analysis in terms of each. You should be specific with your dates and examples and utilise detail in reference to artists and their practice. Your conclusion should not be a last minute addition to finalise your essay. Rather, the conclusion should provide a summary of your argument, examples and analysis. It should bring the markers back to understanding how you answered the questions and all the great examples you used to show your understanding.
5. FINAL TIP: Know your case studies! AND Stay up to date
As Major works can take up a lot of your time it is common for theoretical study to take the back seat throughout the HSC. However it is important to build up a bank of essay case studies which can be utilised in your assessments and final exam. These case studies should be up to date and you need to know your stuff. You cannot walk into the exam and attempt to wing the essay without knowing a lot about your artists and artworks. So practice timed responses, create mind maps and EBT’s and INCLUDE CRITICAL QUOTES. Quotes are especially important in elevating your essay, however you need to integrate these quotes and use them to contribute to your argument rather than just adding them in. It is also important to constantly research new information which could be included in your essay. This could include new artworks, new art historian or critic quotes or new exhibitions, this will help keep your essay relevant and fresh.