Works breathe new life into Wilkins Collection

A sculpture from 2022 ARTEXPRESS alumni Angus Baldwin has inspired a reinvigoration of the Department’s Wilkins Collection. Pascal Adolphe reports.

An artist standing behind a large sculpture. An artist standing behind a large sculpture.
Image: Angus Baldwin and his colour blind, climate change inspired sculpture, Turning a Blind Eye.

Brian Shand and Angus Baldwin have a few things in common, despite a generational divide.

Both are accomplished artists, Angus a sculptor and Brian a painter.

Their school major works were exhibited in the prestigious ARTEXPRESS exhibition, Brian’s painting in 1993 and Angus’s sculpture in 2022.

And last Thursday, Brian and Angus came together to launch a reinvigoration of the Wilkins Collection - ARTEXPRESS works displayed at the NSW Department of Education’s Parramatta office.

The centrepiece of the launch was Angus’s sculpture, Turning a Blind Eye, created for his HSC major work at the Northern Beaches Secondary College Freshwater Campus and featured in the 2022 ARTEXPRESS exhibition.

Brian’s 1993 HSC major work, The Knowing, was painted when he was a student at East Hills Boys High School. It has been in the Wilkins Collection for the past 30 years and is on permanent display on the Parramatta office’s fifth floor.

Arts Programs and Partnerships Coordinator Andrew Lasaitis said seeing Angus’s work at the 2022 ARTEXPRESS exhibition sparked the idea to “reinvigorate” the Wilkins Collection.

“It ignited a little bit of a flame to think about how we can represent and celebrate the work of DoE students here in our offices,” Mr Lasaitis said.

“The ARTEXPRESS team is going to be installing gallery tracking so we will be able to have a more permanent Wilkins Collection space.”

Each year it plans to use the space to showcase a selection of ARTEXPRESS works by NSW public school students.

Angus, who is currently studying design and media at the University of NSW, said a combination of being colour blind, as well as a desire to address the issue of climate change, was the inspiration for his sculpture.

“My greens are red, and blues are orange, according to the tests at least,” he said.

“I thought being colour blind was my weakness, but perhaps it’s playing a role in a society that will not open its eyes and is not willing to see the destruction of our environment through the continued use of fossil fuels.”

Brian, who now works for the Department as the Visual Arts HSC Strategy Stage 6 Curriculum Advisor, said the Wilkins Collection was “less well known” than ARTEXPRESS but “not less valued”.

“We need a record and, if you were to look at the Wilkins Collection, it wouldn’t feel dated. These works are really timeless works,” he said.

“That’s a reflection of the teaching of visual arts in NSW.

“To engage with art at a high school level with such sophistication is so important. I’m a product of that public education of visual arts. I went from high school to art school to university. And I taught visual arts and now I am teaching other art teachers, supporting them in the role.”

For many years, Brian was unaware what had happened to his artwork.

“A month ago, I was told that it was upstairs and I actually got to see my HSC 2 Unit work for the first time in 30 years. It still holds up pretty good,” he said.

An artist standing in front of a large painting. An artist standing in front of a large painting.
Image: Brian Shand saw his 1993 ARTEXPRESS painting for the first time in 30 years last month.

The Wilkins Collection

Is a collection of artworks, 363 of which adorn the walls at the department’s Parramatta office. Many more are displayed on the walls of other government departments across the state.

Named after William Wilkins, a 19th century Secretary of the Board of Education Artworks, the collection comprises a selection of ARTEXPRESS works gathered since 1974 to create an historical reference of high achievement in visual arts education in NSW.

The collection documents artmaking trends, advancements in technology, impact of world events and the evolving minds of teenagers in NSW.

William Wilkins was appointed Secretary of the Board of National Education in 1865.

ARTEXPRESS is a joint project between the NSW Department of Education and the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). The Wilkins Collection is owned by the department and managed by The Arts Unit.

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