Yasmine Damcevski, of Kirrawee, was just nine when her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Her eight-year battle inspired the former Kirrawee High School student's major HSC artwork, Spiritual Oncology, which is one of 50 outstanding works to be included in this year's ARTEXPRESS exhibition at Hazelhurst Arts Centre, Gymea.
ARTEXPRESS is now in its 37th year and showcases outstanding work created by NSW students for the 2020 HSC Visual Arts examination. Exhibitions are held at six locations, including the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, and Hazelhurst Arts Centre, Gymea.
Hazelhurst's exhibition features works that explore equality, the environment, identity, technological advances, family and friendship, their own life experiences during 2020, and reference film and pop culture.
Miss Damcevski, 17, said the series of charcoal drawings on paper explore the strength and perseverance of her mother, and the family's common reliance on religion and spirituality to help them through her treatment.
"By juxtaposing themes of science and religion, white and black, I have created the story I want to present to my audience," she said.
"These themes represent my mother's resilience and courage in a realistic manner, paying homage to the journey that both she and my family have gone through.
"I kind of wanted to explore all the time we have spent in hospital and all the different treatments, and I wanted to show the other side of the journey with regards to spirituality and religion."
She said the 12 drawings include medical-based images along the top, such as pill bottles and IV bags filled with chemotherapy drugs, and spiritual-based images along the bottom, such as angel wings. The images in the middle tie the two themes together.
She recalls learning her mother was sick.
"You can imagine being that young, you didn't understand everything but me and my brothers did understand that she was sick and we were exposed to this sort of environment from a young age and it has been a very integral part of my life, which I wanted to explore through my artwork.
"It was very emotional but very therapeutic at the same time."
Miss Damcevski said she had always been very close to her mother but completing the artworks had strengthened their bond even further.
Another student whose work is featured this year is Anastasia Spyridopoulos, 18, of South Hurstville.
The former Blakehurst High School student was researching themes for her major work when she became fascinated with an article she read about 'top 10 ways to become more masculine'.
She said she found the article 'demeaning and toxic', and wanted to explore the link between the Greek gods pictured within the article and modern-day men.
She completed a series of seven watercolour paintings on cotton paper, Immortal Men, to explore masculinity, which she sees as a socially constructed set of attributes that appears to be detrimental to men's mental health.
Each painting depicts a celebrity known for exploring their feminine side as a Greek god, and includes Harry Styles as Zeus, Prince as Ares and Timothee Chalamet as Hades.
"Men who are considered 'feminine' in nature are progressively appearing in society today, yet they are still criticised for their choice in style and how they act," she said.
"In my body of work I contrast the appearance of these men with famous Greek gods who are seen as the 'top tier of masculinity'.
"By incorporating the masculinity of the Greek gods with the femininity of pop culture, my intent is to challenge these critics and present a more contemporary perspective on masculinity."
Hazelhurst Arts Centre director Belinda Hanrahan said the exhibition, curated by Kate Milner and Samantha Relihan, revealed extraordinary technical skills by the young artists.
Sutherland Shire mayor Steve Simpson said the annual ARTEXPRESS exhibition was an enduring favourite with local art lovers.
"Each year, Hazelhurst plays host to a stunning selection of works from local student artists as well as the best works drawn from students elsewhere around NSW," he said.
"I would like to congratulate the local students whose works feature in this year's exhibition and I know the Hazelhurst staff look forward to sharing their artworks with the many visitors expected to flock to the gallery to see this exhibition."
Students from 10 schools in St George and Sutherland Shire are featured, including:
Nouralhuda Abualja'as, Beverly Hills Girls High School, Generations, Painting, Acrylic on Canvas
Jianhuan Jade Ma, St George Girls High School, A Walk Along Brick Street, Drawing, Pen on Paper
Olivia Pearse, St Ursula's College, Vignettes of Life, Painting, Oil, gouache, watercolour and acrylic
Khoi Tuan Nguyen, Sydney Technical High School, Family Portrait, Painting
Bronte Stark, De La Salle Catholic College, Cronulla, High Vis, Painting, Oil on canvas
Annika Tan, Woolooware High School, Dichotomy of Self, Drawing, Charcoal on paper
Antonia Tsang, Caringbah High School, ...is Bliss! and Seeing is..., Time Based Forms, Digital animation
Julie Zhao, Caringbah High School, NIRVANA, Sculpture, Perspex, acrylic, LED light, tree stump.
Details: ARTEXPRESS is at Hazelhurst Arts Centre, Gymea, from February 13 to April 5. It is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Entry is free.