Reviews/Visual Art

Youth Pulse beats bright

27 June 2023

The breadth of talent on display in this year’s exhibition of Year 12 graduate work leaves Jaimi Wright assured that the future of WA art is in safe hands.

Once upon a time I was a year 12 visual arts student.

So when I say that the level of imagination, creativity, eloquence, execution and critical thinking displayed this year’s West Australian Pulse exhibition is nothing short of awe inspiring, I’m speaking not only as a critic but as a former student artist.

An artwork from the West Australian Pulse, of a teenage girl, resting her head on her mother's lap. The picture is so faint you can only see their two heads clearly.
Cindy Wang’s poignant work 妈妈 ma ma’ 2022, colour pencil on paper, 146 x 107 cm, Applecross Senior High School. Photo: Rebecca Mansell 

An annual exhibition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA), this exhibition presents a selection of the best artworks from our state’s recently graduated Year 12 students. This year 61 artworks were chosen by a judging panel that included Pip Lewi (WA artist), Cassie Bussell (Department of Education) Zali Morgan, (AGWA Assistant Curator of Indigenous Art) and Bahar Sayed (AGWA Curatorial Assistant).

Taking the “pulse” of the young artists’ concerns – whether societal, social, technical, experimental, psychological, ecological, personal or philosophical – this year’s iteration of Pulse provides a compelling insight into the open dialogue held by today’s youth.

Stagnation, a sculpture by Dawn Albuquerque (Corpus Christi College), immerses viewers in her lived experience following sexual assault, and the disconnection and lack of control over her body she felt as a result.

Two ceramic heads sit atop a thin white table, Albuquerque’s face sunken and split down the middle. Her Medusa-like hair, made from nuno felting, trails off the heads and sinks through below the table, in tatters and coloured a stagnant green. A body split in two and unable to stand on its own, Albuquerque’s piece is a brave, heartfelt and devastating account of her trauma.


Injured Heart, by Clay Chase (Perth Modern School), uses photography and textiles to create accurate representations of their disability. As Chase’s condition affects their heart, they have created a series of plush textiles, including hearts, intended to wrap around their body, as seen in the photographs displayed above the textiles. Though Chase is impacted by their disability, Injured Heart’s cheery, yellow colour palette is an impactful testament to their strength and resolution

An artwork from the West Australian Pulse exhibition depicting pale muscular figures that seem to push themselves out of the canvas as they writhe in and out of one another, creating a tense and psychedelic effect against the black background.
Winner of the West Australian Pulse Editor’s Award, Sky Biesse, ‘Don’t worry be happy’ 2022, oil on canvas, 153 x 122 x 3 cm, St Mark’s Anglican Community School. Photo: Rebecca Mansell

The diptych 妈妈 ma ma, by Cindy Wang (Applecross Senior High School), is a beautifully articulated depiction of the ever-evolving relationship Wang has with her mother.

Drawn with incredibly fine coloured pencil strokes on paper, Wang’s right panel depicts her mother isolated and pensive, almost fading away as Wang gets older. However, she looks pensively over the left panel, which draws the viewer back to Wang resting peacefully in her mother’s arms.

The negative space in this work is almost overwhelming, which makes the tender moments between mother and daughter even more poignant when they emerge. I admit this one made me cry.

The ingenuity and execution of Oscar Palandri’s Eros makes the sculpture an unusual marvel.

Palandri (Christ Church Grammar) has moulded fragrant paraffin wax, traditionally used for male grooming and hair styling, into the shape of a mirror including objects used in male beauty rituals. The highly unusual use of the medium, coupled with the shape of the mirror, catches the viewer off-guard and forces an abrupt reflection on the excessive effects of beauty standards.

The West Australian Pulse Editor’s Award was won by Sky Biesse (St Mark’s Anglican Community School), for Don’t Worry Be Happy, a monumental work in oil on canvas.

Pale muscular figures seem to push themselves out of the canvas as they writhe in and out of one another, creating a tense and psychedelic effect against the black background. Inspired by the Renaissance period and contemporary artist Phil Hale, Don’t Worry Be Happy is a confronting perspective into mental health and the corners of Biesse’s mind.

The sheer breadth of talent on exhibit at Pulse this year is dazzling and proves the future of WA art is bright and well worth our attention.

The West Australian Pulse continues at the Art Gallery of Western Australia until 20 August 2023.

Pictured top: A detail from Clay Chase’s impactful testament to their strength an resolution, ‘Injured heart’ 2022, photography and textiles, 90 x 190 x 3cm, Perth Modern School. Photo: Rebecca Mansell

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Author —
Jaimi Wright

Jaimi is a Development Coordinator for ARTRAGE and your friendly neighbourhood arts writer. She also writes for Art Almanac and ArtsHub as she cannot keep still. Her favourite piece of play equipment is the roundabout even though her stomach should know better.

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