NCEA Level 3 Painting Folio: The Shaping of Identity

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

This beautiful surrealist NCEA Level 3 Painting folio gained an Excellence (the top grade available) in 2010. It was completed by Bethan Powell, while studying NCEA Art at Whangaparaoa College, Auckland, New Zealand. NCEA Level 3 Painting is the New Zealand equivalent of A2 Art & Design (Painting & Related Media). Assessment methods and quantity of work required differ between the two qualifications, however the development of ideas, acquisition of skills and learning processes undertaken are the same. The NCEA Art exemples that are included on this site will thus benefit A Level Art as well as students studying other high school Art qualifications.

excellence NCEA art exemplar
NCEA Art Exemplar: a surrealist Painting submission exploring the theme of identity.

Comprising of three A1 boards, Bethan’s NCEA Painting folio explores the theme of Identity – a theme used by all of the students in her class. Setting a class-wide Art theme is common practise. It aids the sharing of ideas between candidates and makes it easier for the teacher to collate and present resources to the class. A common theme also gives students valuable experience at working within constraints – potentially preparing them for a creative career in which they must respond to client briefs. In this case, as with all good class-wide themes, Identity is a broad and flexible theme that has many possible interpretations, allowing students to generate original and individual submissions.

NCEA Art Level 3 - painting
Inspired by surrealist artist models, these NCEA Art Level 3 artwork demonstrates Bethany’s competent painting skills and handling of complex three dimensional form.

Bethan’s NCEA Level 3 Art folio explores the notion that our identities are shaped by our decisions. She begins by identifying subject matter that can be used to express her ideas: doors represent life choices, highlighting different paths and directions one can take; mirrors reflect our own image, partially revealing who we are; and a faith in God (which contributes towards Bethan’s identity and thus decision-making process) is represented by water: an all-encompassing, life-giving source that sustains the earth. Other symbolic items, such as clouds, give her work, in her own words, ‘a more dream-like and ethereal quality’. Clouds are also a key component of Rene Magritte‘s artwork – a surrealist artist who has inspired Bethan, along with the work of other artist models such as Salvador Dali and Sergei Aparin.

photographic investigation for A Level Art
A sculptural / installation beginning: a photographic investigation sets up the visual proposition for this Painting folio.

Bethan’s initial photographic investigations (see above) clearly set out the pictorial devices explored in the subsequent work: frames within frames; reflection; the contrast of curved organic form with straight; repetition of parallel lines etc. Sculptural works of this nature mark a particularly clever beginning to Bethan’s NCEA Painting board and can be an excellent way to begin a folio, spurring unexpected and creative ideas for compositions.

NCEA Level 3 Art painting example - doorknob
With stunning attention to surface quality, this NCEA Level 3 painting glows with the warm timber hues and the greens of the ornate metal door knob.

Right from the very first A1 board of paintings and drawings, Bethan demonstrates an excellent ability to record shape, proportion and form. She composes artwork innovatively, replicating the human figure, transparency and water with ease. The board is comprehensive, well executed and intriguing.

Bethan works primarily in acrylic, with water colour used for splatters and drips. Over the subsequent two boards, her work is developed with reference to surrealist artists, with three-dimensional surfaces and textures integrated within her work, painting on acrylic mirrors and gluing on old keys, hanging from string.

Surrealist NCEA painting example
In this surrealist NCEA painting, a mirror surface becomes ripples in water: further exploration of frames within frames and the contrast of curving and linear form. Reminiscent of the ‘butterfly effect’, this painting reminds us how a single action can have far reaching consequences, with ripples fanning out from a single fingertip. With strong contrasts between light and dark, and a clear focal point to the image, this is a painting that commands attention.
Example of a surrealism theme, A Level Art
A popular art style with both A Level Art and NCEA Art students, Surrealism allows candidates to represent objects with realism, while positioning them inventive and unexpected positions. Depicting a series of doors, and a series of possible avenues, decisions and directions, this painting suggests the many avenues in which a human life can turn.

If you wish to see more outstanding student artwork, you may like to view our Featured Art Projects.


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