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Very early on Friday morning, 29 students and three staff embarked on a day of art and adventure to Sydney for our annual Senior Art Tour. We were excited to see the myriad of works on offer and were left tired, but inspired and exhilarated, by the scope and variety of artistic expression we experienced. The Art Gallery of NSW hosts a collection of modern and contemporary works that are displayed in expansive, light-filled spaces, offering stunning views of Sydney and the harbour. We explored the Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age exhibition, which showcased masterpieces from the Rijks museum works of art by the greatest Dutch painters of the 17th century. The variety of works on show from the renowned national collection of the Netherlands included a rare painting by Johannes Vermeer and a room dedicated to one of the greatest minds in the history of art, Rembrandt van Rijn. were breathtaking and visually striking, as we wondered at the amazing detail and rich, saturated colours. Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age presented a glimpse of Dutch society during an era of wealth, power and cultural confidence in which the art of painting flourished like never before.

Artists of the time observed the beauty of the day to day life around them, as well as great landscapes and dramatic moments at sea; transforming these scenes into vivid and compelling paintings that delicately captured these precious moments with great skill and an immense attention to detail. An example of this would one of the paintings Jan Davidsz de Heem called ‘Still life with flowers in a glass vase’ which is so detailed to the extent that we are able to see the insects on the flower petals.

In contrast, our exploration of the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium celebrated one of the most renowned photographers of the 20th century, an artist who understood the medium’s ability to alter perceptions and push boundaries. Featuring over 200 works, including floral still lifes, portraits and figure studies, Mapplethorpe captured and shaped an era with portraits that immortalised the cultural idols of the 1970s and 1980s, including his lifelong muse Patti Smith, fellow artists Cindy Sherman and Louise Bourgeois, actor Isabella Rossellini and musicians Debbie Harry and Philip Glass. Whether he was photographing a figure, or a flower, Mapplethorpe pursued what he called ‘perfection in form’. The legacy of his unflinching quest for beauty has left behind the photographical wonders produced in his work and a stand against social norms in art and other areas.

After a lovely lunch at Circular Quay, we ventured to MCA. Located on one of the world’s most spectacular sites on the edge of Sydney Harbour, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) hosts a variety of exhibitions that challenge the boundaries of art and explore the current forms of expression from local and international artists.

A highlight of our tour was the work of Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, who has achieved international renown as a pioneer of video art and multimedia installations. Her dazzling, large-scale installations incorporate video, sculpture and performance and often envelop viewers in vibrantly coloured projections of light and music to create immersive environments that involved all the senses. Some installations such as the underwear chandelier and the room of crystal lights were favourites among students and teachers due to the humour they brought and the interesting atmospheres they created, whilst other installations were a bit of a mystery such as the hole in the carpet that showed a video found in Rist’s area called ‘The Apartment’. We were left stunned and amazed!