What we see is mediated by what we are looking for and that is specific to our time and ourselves.
We have an ongoing love affair with the landscape in Australia. Landscape forms both our imaginative and physical worlds and seeps inexorably into our literature and art. It doesn’t nurture. It is mercurial. Water, the most essential element of life, is severely limited. Despite its whims, we are obsessed with its beauty.
In looking at art, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. That moment when the object you encounter resonates with eye and mind and takes you somewhere strangely new. The latest incarnation of the Geelong Contemporary Art Award is no exception. Hurry on down. If you are looking for a quiet place away from the crowds; this is it. A sunny Queen’s Birthday Monday afternoon – the third day of the exhibition – had the public staying away in hordes.
And why not? Given the frog to prince ratio we have come to expect in contemporary art shows, even the June seaside weather is more reliably rewarding. I feel a bit like a punter before a pokie machine. Will this show give me anything for my invested time, my careful perusal of painting and statements? Or should I be at the beach? Like a gambling addict I am willing to give it a try.
Seeing the world as more than a backdrop or stage-set for unfolding narratives is the basic premise of landscape painting. It requires sensation rather than symbol to be the dominant motive. This is at odds with the corrosive didacticism of much academic art which looks for the obvious moral in every artwork. The recently set up Hadley’s Art Prize – a $100,000 prize for an Australian landscape painting, is a case in point. It has been called a landscape prize when what they really require is history painting, and a certain kind of history at that.
Hobart hotel owner Don Neil has launched one of Australia’s richest art prizes, with an annual $100,000 award for landscapes…. and this year invites artists to address the theme “history and place”.
Artist and curator Julie Gough, who is one of the judges, says the award encourages artists to think beyond European concepts of landscape as depictions of sublime nature. “History is about story, and the entrants have to consider that as much as things such as vegetation and landforms,” says Gough. “It will be interesting to see how people push that theme.”
The Australian 27th Jan 2017
And here is Ben Quilty, judging the 2017 Glover Prize for Australian landscape painting and commenting:
There’s a converted butter factory in a small town tucked into the green rolling foothills of the Strzelecki ranges, where the main street is wide and cars are parked at 45 degree angles. Anyone who can spell Strzelecki must be a local. This is Yinnar on the doorstep of the still-operating Hazelwood coal-fired power station, subject of much debate and despair.
There’s a Drawing Prize here of national repute. Despite the rhetoric of demographic disasters: job losses, mine fires, pollution, asbestos and the rest, Arc Yinnar an artist run venture has been operating for 32 years. As well as hosting a national prize, it boasts two galleries, public access facilities for printmaking, ceramics, metalwork, photography, painting and drawing, a retail outlet, theatrette and private studios. All this on a shoestring grant of $3000. When the lights go out at Hazelwood, this sort of cooperative venture is what keeps communities afloat and shores up their identity. Its funding should be assured for the long term, but I am told it is reduced every year and tied to utilitarian outcomes.
A drawing show throws up immediate questions; how much drawing is going on, what do people draw and what do they draw for
This landscape painting prize, based in Sale, is one of those generous moments when a local benefactor makes a significant contribution to the nation’s cultural life….and ensures that serious contemporary work reaches the regions. It encompasses vertiginous highs and repellent lows. Predominantly the work is largish and surreal. Colour has mostly escaped any sense of