New Visions in Landscape: John Leslie Art Prize 2018

John Leslie Art Prize exhibition view of interior

 

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.

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Frogs but few princes: Geelong Contemporary Art Award 2018

'The Awakening' by Andrew Browne. Geelong Contemporary Art Prize 2018 Winner

9th June – 19th August 2018

Katherine Hattam painting '72 Derwents' at the Geelong Contemporary Art Award 2018
’72 Derwents’ Katherine Hattam

 

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.

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The Humility of Hokusai

Hokusai
Woodblock print The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai
The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai

One hundred and seventy-six elegant woodblock prints by Japanese nineteenth century artist Katsushika Hokusai are on display in Melbourne at the NGV. It’s a huge exhibition and a popular one. What is it about these images, from a culture aeons from mine in sensibility and almost two centuries in time that are so riveting? And why do they remind me of Turner, Freidrich and Cozens – those Northern European painters for whom landscape was a metaphor of transcendence? What could a Japanese printmaker have in common with a Romantic painterly sensibility?

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Is Landscape Painting History?

Alexandra Sasse landscape painting in North Melbourne Australai

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:

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Why I could never agree with John Berger

Image courtesy of Verso Books

 

Berger’s ground breaking Ways of Seeing was a cultural tour de force. It remains highly relevant today. But I have never been able to agree with most of what he said.

Growing up in an outer Melbourne suburb, I was blissfully unaware of Berger whose book was published when I was about 11. What I was aware of was the painful ugliness of miles of new suburban housing and the almost visceral reaction I had to the destruction of bush, re-routing of creeks and bulldozing of apple orchards in our neighbourhood.  This left me with a life-long appreciation of beauty, and a consequent resistance to any philosophy that told me I couldn’t have it, or it didn’t exist. I had seen it, and I had seen it destroyed.

So Berger and I were never going to get along, as for him, concepts like beauty are merely conditioned responses, built into us through culture by the powerful for the purpose of control.

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Urban Rhythms – Harley Manifold, Paintings.

Image of Harley Manifold painting 'Mr Boxie ran into something'

Bridge 38 Galley, Richmond, November 10th – 30th, 2016

Image of Harley Manifold painting 'Mr Boxie ran into something'
‘Mr Boxie ran into something’ by Harley Manifold 88 x 161cm

Attending an exhibition opening can be a bit like going on a blind date. What if I don’t like the work? What will I say? Painting can go so wrong and often does. But in this small gallery in the heart of Richmond, sixteen paintings demonstrate that Harley Manifold knows what he is doing with paint. His surfaces are articulate, composite, layered. Colour is calibrated into convincing form.

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