Young artists show where they stand at Top Arts show

Arthur "Arty" Foulkes is one of a rare few to feature in the National Gallery of Victoria's Top Arts show two years running.

Ahead of the opening on Thursday, the artist told AAP he's feeling proud, but more important than any personal achievement is what the show says to its audience.

"People who experience this exhibition and walk through the stories of young people really get an insight on the youth of today and where they stand," he said.

The former student of Belmont High in Geelong takes on some big themes with his three stoneware vessels. The largest is titled A salute to hard work, hair, all things natural and a possible robot apocalypse.

"It's almost like a blurb of existence ... although you can separate ideas, there is always going to be interconnectivity between things and histories and creations and ideologies," Foulkes said.

"It's also this beehive of ideas and existence on earth and humans."

The Top Arts exhibition has been running for 29 years, and this year features the work of 38 VCE students drawn from a field of more than 1400 applicants.

Some of the chosen works show a deep connection to nature, as in Wangaratta student Kelly Hirschmann's engraved inkjet prints depicting the forest around her home.

Others are clever and whimsical, such as Bialik College graduate Michael Fisher's stoneware works, jugs that gradually increase in size as their handles shift closer to their spouts until they become useless.

Mildura Senior College student Eden Muster's costumes are inventive and playful, while Ginger Dewar's large-scale photos look at how fashion can conceal identity and reveal it too.

The exhibition opens with 18-year-old street art fan Emma Tripp's spray-paint mural, with a black-and-white self-portrait inside a gilt frame that expands beyond the frame into psychedelic rainbow colours.

The former Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar student, who is now studying filmmaking at Swinburne University, said the artwork looks at self-presentation and ideas about gender.

"People only present a portion of themselves to the world, and it's only a small fraction of what makes up themselves as a whole complex human," she told AAP.

Tripp worked on the piece for months at home in her garage, with much trial and error and many excursions to Officeworks and Bunnings.

The dimensions of its three plywood panels were determined by the space in the back of her grandfather's ute. The day before it was due, they stripped the beds at home and loaded the artwork into the ute, cushioned with doonas.

Tripp said it was a shock to finally see her artwork on the wall of the NGV.

"It honestly hasn't sunk in yet that I've made it into Top Arts, I think I'm gonna cry later tonight," she said.

Top Arts is on at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, from March 17 until July 9.