Behind the Canvas

When artwork judge Wendy Taylor and I began our four day journey to visit each of the schools participating in the 2011 Archibull Prize to judge the artwork category  I made a commitment to write a blog about each school and their bovine canvas.  I didn’t quite finish and it is now time I delivered on the promise to showcase all the schools masterpieces. To help me artwork judge Wendy Taylor has written an artwork analysis for each of the schools based on what the students shared with her about their vision for their “Archies”


Terra Sancta Beef (2)

Next gen is so clever don’t you think? 

Macarthur Anglican Primary School – Cotton industry

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“Gossie” (derived from the botanical name for cotton) is a bright and colourful exploration of the cotton industry from nose to tail. Most of the school was involved in some form or another in her development – from the design, to the actual work on the cow and across the many research projects and science experiments about the properties of cotton which the school undertook.


Overlaid over a colourful and tactile patchwork of cotton samples, the rear side of “Gossie” tells the story of the process of cotton – from the planting and the growing of the cotton itself, to the picking and harvesting of the bolls and then to the manufacturing of the cotton into the forms that we recognise. On the front, again overlaid on the tactile cotton patchwork, are some of the many cotton products available in our society today. The story is also told from the tail to the nose of “Gossie”, with growing cotton bolls depicted around the rear legs, the process and products on the two sides, the front legs in actual cotton socks, and the cotton industry logo on the head representing the finished products and the importance of the industry in Australia- the complete circle.

She is finished with the eartag necessary for identification of cattle, which has turned into a coathanger with the Macarthur Anglican School blazer on it (of course it is made from cotton too.)

Caroline Chisholm College – Beef industry

Caroline Chisholm College

“Moobix Cube” was designed and created by five different classes (around 100 students) from Caroline Chisholm College. Using the easily recognisable form of a “rubik’s cube” as the base, they create an effective way to showcase the many differing facets of the beef industry. Whilst a traditional rubik’s cube rotates, this one is composed of a series of smaller cubes on either side of the main cube, which can be pulled out, turned around to a new side and then slotted back into position. Once all of the smaller cubes have been turned around to a new side and replaced, a new picture is then formed.

A total of eleven components of the beef industry as well as “how we can feed Sydney for a day” are represented on this interactive cube. Each section of the cube tells a different side of the beef and food story – from the genetics and selective breeding of beef cattle, to beef products including their medical uses, to the environment (touching on both water security and ideal conditions), to facts and figures, as well as the differing personal experiences that the school has had with the beef industry. All combined onto the one cow.

Cranebrook High School – Sheep industry

“Daisy” and “Ben” represent the two quite different but still interconnected, faces of the sheep industry in Australia as seen by the students of Cranebrook High School. The two calves were designed and created by eight agriculture and art classes ranging from Year 8 to Year 10 students. One calf shows the wool components of the industry, whilst the other depicts the meat components.

“Daisy” is the face of the meat component of the sheep industry. She takes the idea of ‘paddock to plate’ to a very sculptural conclusion. The rear side of “Daisy” shows a three-dimensional tableau of scenic pastoral land, dotted with animals on the ‘tablecloth’ of grass. The front side of “Daisy” shows the final product. It depicts a three-dimensional table, complete with its own chequered tablecloth and food.

“Ben” is the face of the wool component of the sheep industry. He is colourful, tactile and informative. The base layer is a colourful patchwork of woollen squares stitched together and then overlaid with imagery of the implements, the processes and the products used in the wool industry in Australia. Wrapped intricately around and over all of this is the woollen cord which ties it all together.

Richmond High School – Beef industry

“Pattie” was designed and created primarily by a group of Year 11 Art students from Richmond High School and was designed to be able to be shown both indoors and outdoors. She is a colourful and tactile homage to the beef industry in Australia and depicts a remarkably unique interpretation of this industry. She was designed to have a high level of simplicity and clarity.

With a detailed and intricately realistic painted head, she then progresses down the neck to a very flat and colourful base layer of bright red. This ‘stripped down’ base layer, without being graphic or losing the intrinsic simplicity which is “Pattie”, echoes the primary function of the beef industry, which is to provide meat. This flat, bright red colour also contrasts, and in turn highlights, the overlaid patches of tactile green grass which depict the primary meat cuts commonly found on a cow. The grass patches also form a quirky intellectual play as it is the grass which is eaten by the cow which forms the meat itself.

Colo High School – Cotton industry

“Threads” showcases two facets of the cotton industry in two very unique ways, all wrapped up and depicted in a manner which is familiar to us all – washing hanging on the clothes line. The two facets are the growing and manufacturing of the cotton itself as well as some of the final products commonly found in homes throughout Australia. “Threads” was designed and created by a wide range of classes at Colo High School, including a combination of art, agriculture and sustainability classes.

Colo High School

On the outside, “Threads” is simply a cow which has crashed though a washing line, becoming entangled in the washing itself. This washing represents a portion of the variety of cotton products available today to the wider Australian public -Cotton in the recognisable form that we know it. However, “Threads” has an inner, hidden story as well.


Colo High School  (2)

The interior of the cow literally opens up to depict imagery of a very different scale and style. It highlights the growing and manufacture of cotton, the divide between the city and the country, as well as the water required by the cotton industry and the people it provides for. Centred on the inside of “Threads” a heart made from cotton is hanging.

Hurlstone Agricultural High School – Cotton industry

“imoo” looks at the cotton industry from a very different viewpoint. The creative group of students from Hurlstone Agricultural High School have chosen not to show the cotton industry through simply pictorial methods. They have chosen to show both cotton and the additional theme of “What it takes to feed and clothe Sydney for a day” through multi media.

Hurlstone Agricultural High School

“imoo” is in fact, different in many ways. Firstly, there is no fibreglass cow underneath its delicate cotton shell -it is simply stiffened layers of cotton. It has a palette of colour which has been limited strictly to white, as well as an intricate, tactile quality. “imoo’s” stiff cotton base has been overlaid with 26 soft patches of hand-sewn embroidery depicting various agricultural products and has also been hand-stitched together into panels positioned primarily according to the sections of an animal that dairy cows are judged on. This tactile, bespoke and quite traditionally-styled pared-back base has then been overlaid by modern technology in the form of 10 ipads. It is these ipads, containing a collection of interactive discussions and interviews about both of the themes, which tell the story. Not only do they tell the initial story, but they can gather both imagery and further stories as time progresses.

Rouse Hill Anglican College – Dairy industry

“Mootilda” is quite simply a tale of two sides. The story told, the imagery depicted, the colour palette and the emotions evoked create a stark contrast between the two sides. Good versus bad. Healthy versus unhealthy. Sustainable versus unsustainable. She was created by nine students from Years 7 to 10, who were primarily Art students.

Rouse Hill Anglican 2

The front side is lush and green. A harmonious balance is created between the idyllic rural areas and the pleasant and contented urban areas. Milk comes straight from the cow to provide for the city. Everyone is smiling.

Rouse Hill Anglican

The reverse side of “Mootilda” shows life in an unbalanced way. The city and suburban areas have taken over and the once lush pastures have given way and become just one of many new, monochromatic suburban subdivisions. The green base is dirty and polluted. A ‘tidal wave’ of milk is required and there are no cows to provide it. No-one is smiling. In fact, there is no-one there at all.

Schofield Primary School – Dairy industry

“Milky Way” is fun, colourful and interesting. She was designed and created by 85 students from Schofield Primary School. Each and every one of them contributed their own little bits to the process and to the final product, while the entire school learnt about the dairy industry along with them, during their library times.

Schofileds Public School

“Milky Way” shows the trail of dairy products and the processes of the dairy industry from ‘paddock to latte’, in three dimensional figures down the centre of her back from head to tail. Each of the components of the process is connected to each other by a series of bridges. This imagery of bridges then connects with the wording depicted on her sides – ‘bridging the rural urban divide’. To highlight these words, the students have used ’bling’ (in their words) to catch your attention and to make you smile. “Milky Way’s” face is completed with beautiful red lips and a big smile.

Terra Sancta College – Beef industry

“Koorina” is aboriginal for “to fly”. The name along with the wings on her back and the signage around her neck, are there to emphasise the students desire to promote the fact that ‘we don’t live on air alone’ – that more is required, a lot more. “Koorina” was designed and created by agriculture classes from Terra Sancta College.

Terra Sancta

The front side of “Koorina” shows the trail of the beef industry from ‘paddock to plate’. The cows are travelling in a herd from country to the city and straight into one of the most recognisable icons of Sydney – the Luna Park face. This also highlights the staggering number of cows it takes to feed Sydney for just one day.

Terra Sancta Beef (5)

The rear side of “Koorina” depicts a number of facts and diagrams relevant to the beef industry in Australia. The two different sides are connected by a road network running from nose to tail, with various highway and distance signs along the way. It is this network that the beef industry relies on extensively. “Koorina’s” eyes each reflect the opposite of each other – one country and the other city.

Quakers Hill High School – Grains industry

“Bessie” was designed, sculpted and painted by Art students from Quakers Hill High School. The initial concept was based around the artistic styling of Reg Mombasa and the Mambo label. The quirky, fun and colourful representation of a toaster complete with toast has an instant recognisability and connection to the grains industry.

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The imagery cleverly portrayed around the surface of the toaster depicts various facets of the grain industry, all supported on imagery down the legs of “Bessie” of wheat, which is the foundation of the industry. The front side is primarily depicts the processing side of the industry, while the back concentrates on the rural to urban aspects. On the toast popping up from the toaster, there are facts and figures which talk about some of the staggering quantities of products and resources required to feed Sydney.

Quakers Hill

Around the toaster can be found the easily recognisable and distinct features commonly found on all toasters – the control buttons and the power cord (which has become the tail of “Bessie”) all completed in the distinctive ‘Mambo’ style.

Windsor Primary School – Dairy industry

“Winnie” was designed and created by a range of students from Windsor Primary School. Kindergarten students started the coloured base, while students from Year 3 and Year 5 completed her.

Trailing around both sides of “Winnie” is a series of quirky cartoon characters, designed and painted by the Year 5 students, on the lush, green base. These characters represent the process of the dairy industry – from the farmer and the cow waving goodbye to their milk as it leaves the farm and becoming the common dairy products that we know today (yoghurt, cheese, butter and ice cream).

Windsor Public School  (1)

Around the hooves of “Winnie” the signatures of the primary children involved in the process and their teacher can be seen (because all good artist’s sign their own work).

Muirfield High School – Grain industry

“Cowlie Moonogue” has two very different sides to her. One is a simple, sculptural statement of a common product, while the other is a complex pictorial made from the products themselves.

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The front side of “Cowlie Moonogue” shows a three dimensional ‘local’ hamburger-with-the-lot. It incorporates annotations for the origins of all of the products and the distances each one may have travelled. This is shown on a background of images associated with social media, as the students felt that that was one way that modern society could start to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities.

Muirfield HS  (1)

The rear side of “Cowlie Moonogue” is a pictorial of Sydney Harbour primarily made from the products themselves. This is representing “what it takes to feed Sydney” – the Opera House has become a serving of Nachos, the ferries on the harbour are rice bowls and the city is bread.

“Cowlie Moonogue” is standing on a piece of highway –a ‘road base’. This represents the journey which products take, from country to city, to feed us all, and is highlighted by her having her own license plate.

Model Farms High School – Dairy industry

“Bessie” is a whimsical, fairytale-inspired depiction of the Dairy industry as designed and created by the clever students of Model Farms High School. She shows strong stylistic links to the artwork of both Reg Mombasa (Mambo) and Keith Haring, while still leaving the viewer in no doubt as to which industry she is showcasing.

Model Farms (2)

The front side of “Bessie” is lush, green and inviting, as well as slightly unusual. It shows subtle, stencilled imagery of cattle collaged into idyllic pastures and surrounded by trees and fencing (unusually depicted as being made from the products of the dairy industry itself – ice creams, cheese etc.) The rear side of “Bessie” shows even more flights of fancy as it concentrates on the industry and the process of milk production itself.

Model Farms (1)

The milk produced is then funnelled through various channels, down the legs and tubing to the waiting, hungry city below, which needs a huge amount of milk just to keep it going.

St Michael’s Primary School – Sheep industry

“Woolly Jumpers” was designed and created by students from Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 from St Michael’s Primary School. They took their research work very seriously and became quite knowledgeable about the sheep industry in Australia, as well as wool itself, its common uses and its scientific properties.

“Woolly Jumpers” is very tactile and very informative and there is no doubt that it belongs to the sheep industry. The front shows the wool industry and the sequence of processes for wool from paddock to the world. It shows many of the countries we export wool to and their relative size and importance to Australia’s wool industry.

The rear side of “Woolly Jumpers” talks about sustainability, about how wool can be used, the properties of wool, as well as numerous images of modern communication items. The latter shows one method which the students (who were previously unaware that the rural sector used these) felt could bridge between rural and urban communities.

Crestwood High School – Sheep industry

“Blossom” was designed and created by around 10 students from Years 8 and 9 from Crestwood High School who requested to be part of the project. She is bright, colourful and informative.

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4 sides of Blossom

On the rear side of “Blossom,” the process from farm through shearing and then manufacture and to the product itself is shown with simplicity and clarity. On the front side of “Blossom” an unbalanced society is represented. The number of houses and developments outweighs the minimal numbers of farms in today’s society.


Connecting the two sides (rural to urban) is a bridge. The bridge echoes each side in its styling. On the rural side (the rear), the bridge is timber, clean and traditional. On the front side, the bridge has graffiti and rubbish. Travelling on the bridge there are also trucks transporting the products to the city. On the top of one truck is a subtle dedication to the ABC reporter Paul Lockyer, who died recently and was an advocate for this message.

Castle Hill High School – Dairy Industry

“Charlie” was designed and created by a small but dedicated team of students from Castle Hill High School. One of only two ‘reclining’ cows given to schools in this year’s competition, the students faced unique issues.

“Charlie” has characteristics drawn from a number of areas. The name is inspired by “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” and also from the imagery of Tim Burton. When connected together with the Dairy industry, they have combined to form a “Mad Hatter’s Milk Party”.

“Charlie” has a base comprised of a brightly coloured, chequered tablecloth overlaid with a collection of patterned teacups, milk bottles and spilt milk. Surrounding this are many facts and figures associated with the dairy industry, as well as a combination of aboriginal imagery, items of modern technology and colourful ‘paint splats’ (following the imagery of the spilt milk).

Northholm Grammar School – Grains industry

“Miss Bits” is a tale of two very different sides, as seen in a number of the entries in this year’s competition. However, “Miss Bits” and the students from Northholm Grammar have taken a very different path.

Northolm Grammar

“Miss Bits” is dressed on her front side in clothes representing the stereotypical imagery of rural communities. The denim overalls and chequered shirt have then been overlaid with the imagery and logos of many of the commonly known and easily recognisable end products of the grains industry in Australia today. This play of showing the beginning of the process and end destination in the grain industry is also replicated on the rear side of “Miss Bits,” though it is shown in reverse. She is dressed on this side in ‘city clothes’ (the ubiquitous black suit) representing the final destination of the products, with imagery overlaid showing the initial growing stages of a number of grain plants.

The two sides of “Miss Bits” are connected through a tactile trail on her head and tail of actual grain seeds, and through a trail down the centre of her back with the names of a number of the common grains used in Australia.

St Ignatius College – Grain industry

“Betsy” was designed and created by a team of around 30 students from St Ignatius College. She shows an intricate and informative look into the grain industry in Australia.

The front side of “Betsy” shows a detailed pictorial from country to city. The intricate patchwork of the landscape is supported on legs covered in wheat, the foundation of the grain industry today. This side also highlights a number of pertinent facts and figures relating to what it takes to feed Sydney for a day.

St Ignatius

The rear side of “Betsy” shows a number of different facets of the grain industry in Australia. It shows the manufacturing process of turning raw grains into useable end products, as well as imagery of the end products themselves. In the centre is a map of Australia showing the primary grain growing areas of Australia as well as the major ports for the export of the grain, as this is a major component of the industry.

The two sides of “Betsy” are connected by a rail network (the primary method in Australia of transporting grains) running straight up her spine from the rural areas at her tail to the city at her head.

Mt Druitt Tutorial Centre – Poultry industry

“Chickcow” was designed and created by Year 8, 9 and 10 students from Mount Druitt Tutorial Centre. However, most of the school was involved in some form or another, particularly through art classes and cooking classes.

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“Chickcow” definitely shows off the poultry industry of Australia, with its easily recognisable sculptural head, tail and feet. It has both tactile and painted feathers as well as many little ‘info-feathers’ showing facts about the industry, about what it takes to feed Sydney for a day as well as a strong sustainability message. The best part of this cow however, is hiding underneath. Nestled beneath “Chickcow” is a precious clutch of hatching ‘chickcowlets’. Their shells have broken open to reveal the fluffy and googly-eyed little babies that will become “chickcows” themselves.

This cow was so precious to the school that they couldn’t bring themselves to pierce its ear for the earrings they wanted it to have so they had to come up with plan B, which you have to admit is great, clip-on egg rings!

Alice Betteridge School – Grains industry

“Betsy” is a very different type of entry into the Archibull Prize than the entry put forward by Alice Betteridge School last year. While last year their entry was very tactile, with differing textures, finishes and built out areas, this year they have completed a very simple and elegant collage of relevant pictures. They found that because the children couldn’t feel the difference in the components, they wanted to know what each picture was and its relevance. They therefore had a much more complete learning experience. It is fascinating what the children can tell you about the pictures without being able to see them

Alice Betteridge front.

“Betsy” has a collage of pictures at her head, showing a collection of rural images based around grain growing in Australia. At the rear, another collection of pictures shows urban images and a variety of grain based products. In the centre, linking the two collages is a band of water with the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge connecting the two sides. Overlaid across the Harbour Bridge are images of the manufacturing process of grain -turning grains into the final products we know.

Alice Betteridge back

“Betsy” is highlighted throughout with bands of gold colouring. This echoes the ideas of ‘fields of gold’ being the paddocks growing grain, but also shows the importance of the grain industry to Australia.

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