Congratulations to the five local artists selected for the final of the Kilgour Prize at the Newcastle Art Gallery in August. Michael Bell, Nicola Bolton, Peter Gardiner, Rachel Milne and Pablo Tapia are as diverse a group of highly accomplished artists as one could wish to assemble and their selection demonstrates the depth of serious talent that exists right here in our own city.
The prize-winners for the Archibald, Sulman and Wynne prizes have also been announced, (after we have gone to print) and congratulations to the four local painters selected for the final exhibitions, who further demonstrate the strength in our art making sector. James Drinkwater continues to cement his reputation with a very bold and energetic work, Arriving in Nice, France in the Sulman and the extension of the eligibility criteria to allow multimedia works has given Richard Tipping’s sign-based work, Ooroo the opportunity to be considered.
Peter Gardiner is commanding well-deserved attention with his unique use of imagery and techniques, reminiscent of 17th century Dutch landscape painting to express issues that are of immediate contemporary significance. His austere North / Black Lung has been selected in the Wynne where he is joined by Redhead artist Tracey-Maree Smith, who recently held a successful exhibition at Cooks Hill Galleries.
These prizes attract big works and all the above are greater than 150cms, whereas the Small show at Back to Back Galleries has a limit of only 15cms. This restriction has not stopped over 25 artists from submitting paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and lots of ceramics in this annual event that has been running for over 15 years. It is pleasing to see the gallery establishing a line of succession and engaging younger artists by giving curatorial responsibility for this difficult event to Nadia Aurisch, a current Fine Art student from UoN.
Two artists from the Small show, Lise Stenberg and Maddyson Hatton are also UoN graduates, holding their first collaborative exhibition, Field Notes at Newcastle Art Space. This is a well-considered exhibition of prints and sculptures where shared concerns about place, absence, memory and surveillance have produced a cohesive exhibition through the sharing of motifs and a similar aesthetic outlook.
In the larger gallery, Nathan Keogh introduces his latest folded, frosted, metal and wooden sculptures which have developed from his Master’s exhibition earlier this year. This group of works deserves to be seen in its own space, under its own lighting conditions in order to have a chance of being appreciated. Unfortunately pairing it with the puzzling hanging of Gina Ermer’s Everyday Observations, mainly tonal paintings of interiors, objects, figures, still lifes, and coastal and urban landscapes, has created a situation where the elements are working against each other, to the benefit of neither artist.
At Watt Space Gallery are four diverse exhibitions including Alysha Fewster’s glorification of the humble weed in watercolour and porcelain and Vanessa Lewis exploration into the use of pigments and historical painting techniques from a contemporary position. Karen Bolden fills her small space with four strong and engaging paintings where colour and composition are handled with confidence and maturity.
For Racist and Rooted; Dismantling the Australian Dream, Dale Collier occupies the main space with a sophisticated, complex installation of videos, painting, sound, photography and 3D pieces which question notions of identity, race, place and belonging in an increasingly complex Australian society and challenge historically accepted narratives of invasion and conquest from a post-colonial perspective.
The close association so many of these artists have with the diminished Newcastle Art School and the now defunct Fine Art Department at UoN raises serious concerns about where our future artists and art teachers might come from. The assault on our cultural institutions continues unabated with the announcement that the National Art School and Sydney College of the Arts are to merge. This destruction of the art education sector is to be condemned.