Meet Liz Smith, Graduate Certificate in Visual Art student

Graduate Certificate in Visual Art student Liz Smith. Photo by Giulia McGauran.
Graduate Certificate in Visual Art student Liz Smith. Photo by Giulia McGauran.

After a 40-year career in psychology and education, Liz Smith is on her way to becoming an artist full-time via the Graduate Certificate in Visual Art at the Victorian College of the Arts.

Her paintings and multi-media works reference the theories of Jung and the concept of the “shadow self” – the instinctive part of the self that is repressed, or hidden. They use a mask motif as a literal interpretation of how the “shadow self” presents. For Smith, that shadow self can be something positive – or so she’s discovering.

“Nobody said that the shadow side had to be the dark side,” she says. “It's just the other side. And I think a lot of people in the world today sit in disillusionment, meaning that the shadow side could also be joy.” It’s an important topic of exploration for Smith, whose career often took her to dark places.

“As an educational and developmental psychologist, I often diagnosed disability. I simultaneously found myself in a school where there was an active paedophile – my job suddenly saw me telling parents that their children had been abused. I developed a reputation as a person who was experienced in that area”. Working with vulnerable and abused children takes its toll, and almost a year out of the field, Smith says the nightmares haven’t stopped.

“My husband used to say that every time I made a diagnosis, I wouldn’t sleep, and it would take a part of my soul,” she says. “My art references my career as a psychologist, but now my practice is all about restoring my soul.”

Smith is now part of the vibrant community of artists at the University of Melbourne’s Southbank Campus, where the students and teachers support one-another, whatever their background. “We’re all from different backgrounds, you only needed to be a graduate to apply – so we’ve got a biologist, a photographer, a couple of graphic artists, an illustrator. There are people from all different walks of life, and that just makes it a more layered, fascinating and experience”.

Attending classes two nights a week is a joy, as is having the time to create work. “At the VCA I can go wild! And the wilder I go, the more I love it”.

If you’re interested in what’s on at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne, visit the Faculty Events page for more information.