Saturday 5 May 2012

art of life in Murrurundi

The Murrurundi Art prize opened last night and we got a good crowd attending despite another event being on for the "King of the Ranges". There were 7 sections to enter with a cash prize of $200-400 for the winner and the acquisitive champion prize of $2000. Rodney entered 3 works and I put in 4. Rodney got a highly commended for his Ancient of Days horses in the "Stockmens Challenge Theme" and I got highly commended for Still Life in the Fibres and Textiles section and a First place in the "Pages River theme" The winner for the champion artwork $2000 Enid Norvill Memorial Prize was Nicci Pratten with her oil painting Minds of our Own.

Rodney entered this wonderful portrait of me in the Pastels/Drawing section.

On the right is a self portrait Rodney did about 2 years ago. He made the one of me the same size and in similar colours so we can hang them at home as a pair. Our lucky grandkids will no doubt fight to own them one day!

I was really amazed to win for my work River Water Hole. I only entered it because Rodney insisted and we needed lots of art to fill the walls! The picture was done 18 months ago for an exhibition sponsored by the Pages River committee. I don't have much affinity for rendering landscape and it is the only one I have ever done....sheeesh! I thought my figurative works were much better....

I went down to the show this morning to take a picture but the digital camera went flat so tomorrow I'll publish a picture.

The judge Brad Franks, the manager of the Muswellbrook Arts Centre did a wonderful job giving out the prizes and commendations. It is always great when the judges can make time to give some critique about their choices. I have been entering art shows for less than 2 years, totalling only 6 now, and have learned there is no such thing as a predictable winner!  Never have I been able to predict the winner in any section or overall. Sometimes I can narrow it to a shortlist of likelihoods, but more often than not I have been completely amazed, occasionally completely astounded at the judges choice.

So it was delightful to have an arts professional like Brad, someone whose job it is to work with contemporary and recent Australian art every day, give an eloquent description of why the pieces he chose for recognition were selected. I found it so fascinating that immediately after the awards I went back to look at many pictures I hadn't really appreciated before.

In my last blog I spoke about my own reticence with having ones art framed by ideologies, themes, messages, narratives, whatever...that I consciously eschew adopting symbols, iconography or images that feel contrived to suggest narratives.... (which is not to say other artists can't do this without great and authentic gravitas. It just doesn't work for me) So it was utterly fascinating when Brad described his response to Still Life something like this "suggestion of religious themes perhaps Mary Magdalene, containing great sadness, the cloth suggests a shroud perhaps implying suffering or grief of some sort" Golly! It was lovely to hear it could evoke such emotions but when working on it I never felt sad or wanted to say anything about grief or religious themes (I'm an atheist) It just felt very still and meditative.

River Water Hole he described as "an iconic image, something almost spiritual or metaphysical in the way the depths of water are suggested" Wow, more astounding and wonderful words! Though the truth is the focal piece of layered embroidery was created about 8 years ago and had no reference to water at all. 18 months ago I decided to use that fragment to embellish around to make a larger work for a Pages River art show. I did appliques and embroidery around the focal piece to suggest rocks and water running over them and used felt and shreds of light reflective fabrics to suggest reflections. But the central focal piece was only chosen because it had lots of green in it.

Monday 30 April 2012

a head full of bright ideas

Things evolved with my last painting. It was so annoying that the black headscarf I had initially surrounded the face with immediately categorised the image as "muslim woman"....and that lead to whole lot of assumptions that completely hijacked any narrative the picture instigated. If the scarf had been painted on it could been changed but I had used draped and stiffened fabric so it became an unremovable feature (like being a muslim/woman)

I feel an instinctive resistance to contriving narratives for my images. That is why I found that one I did a month ago really irritating. It's called "Dreaming a place" and its the one with the gothic arch and doorway in the background (changed it from "Golden Pierrot") If I wanted to tell stories I should have been a writer.

Is this a bit of a conflict maybe...? that I want to show you something but not tell you anything? Isn't a picture supposed to be worth a 1000 words? People do art for a lot of reasons and that is undeniably a good thing because lots of people look at art for different reasons. So there is always going to be some artists and some viewers who find their reasons for doing it and looking at it are compatible.

It is very difficult to become accepted as a serious, credible and professional art practitioner if you don't have a theory about why you make art, what it means and (therefore) why you have something important to say. There are some artists who do this with absolute conviction and many of them make art I find deeply compelling. Truly awesome. And then there are some others I find utterly unconvincing!

So I think its a problem for me that I just like making pictures. So far I haven't been able to find or construct a theory that sounds credibly profound. Serious people in the artworld disparage art for arts sake. The best justification I can find for myself is that I find the surfaces fascinating to create and beautiful to look at. Professing a desire to make "beauty" in art is even more anathema to "serious art people" (I'll just annotate that to SAPs in future)

So before I get any further with shooting myself in the foot I'll just unveil my latest effort. This one will be called "Wrapt: head full of bright ideas" It will be my entry in the painting section of the Murrurundi Art Prize.
You can see it really doesn't look too much like a muslim woman anymore...I hope!

Wrapt: head full of bright ideas