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A RE-PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT Revisited at TRAG

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Doug in the exhibition space PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

 

SAME SITES HINDSIGHT – Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

 

For me rephotography is a way of re-viewing place and change through a comparative documentation using the perspectives of earlier photographers. I have always enjoyed the challenge to re-align the contemporary view with the past to see visual narratives of change either subtle or profound. At this time I discovered the work by Mark Klett and others published in their 1984 book Second View: The Rephotographic Survey Project. Their approach to the reimaging of the photographs of the American west by William Henry Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan and others in the 1860s was methodical and scientific. Although I was informed by this seminal work as a record of social and historical change, in some of my work I also enjoyed questioning the notion of the original photographers as a kind of truth.

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In the mid 1980s I rephotographed tourist postcard scenes in outback Australia and reimaged tourist camera photos placing them in the context of a wider-angled view. These projects were presented at the Araluen Art Gallery in Alice Springs in 1986 in the exhibition Tourists Facts, Acts, Rituals & Relics.

Other projects emerged including a commission from Di Baker, Director of the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery to locate the subject matter of artworks from the Toowoomba Gallery’s collection and to re-image the subject by photography.

The artworks that were my source reference covered a range of approaches to the artist’s vision imbued with the appearance of the painting techniques that they employed. Working with Victoria we travelled around the region to find the matching locations and met with some success finding the exact location. On occasion however we were only able to create a general locational view.

I chose a 4×5 large format camera and a black and white film made by Polaroid. Called Type 55 the film gave a black and white print and also a negative that, after in-field processing could be printed in a conventional enlarger.

The 1996 the exhibition NEW SIGHTS – SAME SITES was opened at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and installation of the selected artworks were paired with our photographic interpretation of the same scene.

Now 23 years later the Gallery has re-presented the work for reconsideration by a new generation of art gallery visitors.

 

Don Featherstone (L) Golden Tree (Corner of Kitchener and Herries Streets)1959 watercolour Spowart+Cooper (R) Corner of Kitchener and Herries Streets 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

 

 

The Gallery wall sheet for the Same Sites Hindsights exhibition states:

In 1996 photographer Doug Spowart assisted by Victoria Cooper undertook a project called New sight-Same sites which re-imaged Downs landscapes and other regional sites depicted in selected works from the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery Toowoomba City Collection.

The project compared and contrasted the direct recording of a site using photography with the painter’s vision of the same location. One of the biggest challenges for Spowart in making these images was to replicate the painters’ viewpoints and, in some instances, even finding the locations proved problematic.

From the time of the initial recording to now, almost 25 years later, these photographs indicate constants and change. Time is transformational. In 1996, the Gallery challenged the photographer to identify these locations and in 2019 we challenge the viewer to explore Toowoomba and surrounds in response to these works.

 

The exhibition is on show from 14 September to November 3, 2019.

 

A selection from the subjects presented in the exhibition

C. G. S. Hirst  The New Court House 1879 watercolour and ink on paper

Spowart+Cooper  The Old Court House 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

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Herb Carstens   Sunday Morning (Street scene Toowoomba) 1961 oil on comp board

Spowart+Cooper  Sunday morning 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

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Brian Williams Near Drayton 1960 oil on comp board

Spowart+Cooper  Near Drayton 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

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Ruby Spowart Clifford Gardens 1986 photograph Polaroid SX-70

Ruby Spowart Clifford Gardens 1986 photograph Polaroid SX-70

Spowart+Cooper  Clifford Gardens 1996 silver gelatin fibre print

 

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TRAG Display

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OTHER REPHOTOGRAPHY PROJECTS BY Doug Spowart & COOPER+SPOWART

 

 

LINK: SEEING DOUBLE Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery 2001

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On Judging a Regional Art Award

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The Somerset Bendigo Bank Art Award – July 26, 2019

 

I spent most of the day at Esk in south-east Queensland judging a regional art award organised by the Somerset Art Society. The Awards attracted a diverse collection of 337 artworks ranging from re-purposed kitchenalia made into sculptures to delicate fine ceramics, to tapestries, photographs and the traditional oil on canvas. Decisions about what was the ‘best’ art in 4 main categories and 4 other special awards were required to be made with my judging partner Dr Beata Batorowicz, artist and Associate Professor from the University of Southern Queensland. The curator of the event and the judging process was LeAnne Vincent.

 

Beata + Doug Photo: Victoria Cooper

 

Let the judging begin

As a judge I have an interest and expectation that I will receive a story from each artwork. The communiqué could be about the artist’s insight or comment about some idea or issue and it must resonate in some way to transform or challenge my understanding of the world. After a judge’s briefing by LeAnne we individually reviewed the works that had been hung on moveable wall panels and plinths within the expanses of the Somerset Civic Centre. Works from each of the 3 2D categories of (1) painting and works on paper, (2) fabrics and (3) photography were grouped for easy viewing and comparison on the panels. The 3D works were arranged in the central gallery and front gallery areas.

At the end of our first review Beata and I met and discussed the work generally and looked at works that had left a strong impressions with us. We walked around the gallery again this time in conversation gaining an understanding not only about the works but also each other’s point of view, opinions and our perceived strengths or weaknesses of certain works. The selection of Beata and myself as judges brought together an opportunity to utilise the overlap of our individual arts practice and our understanding of artmaking processes and storyteling through art.

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Judges among the display panels PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

 

The regional artist and their role in community beyond the Awards

Over an afternoon coffee with my partner Victoria Cooper I reflected upon the role of the artist in regional communities. As the viewer of many artworks today I had received and been touched by so many stories and communiqués. I thought about the important role of artists in recording and documenting their lived experience. And how in a changing world these artworks come to be a history of place, a touchstone for the issues, moods and interests of that time.

 

Somerset Regional Art Gallery – The Condensery

Somerset Regional Art Gallery – The Condensery

 

Art tourism in regional Australia

In the afternoon Vicky and I visited the Somerset Regional Art Gallery at The Condensery in the small town Toogoolawah just north of Esk. Formerly a condensed milk factory it has been repurposed into an art gallery with two exhibition spaces.

I thought about how art tourism is a burgeoning catch cry in regional Australia. Fine examples include Toowoomba’s First Coat Street Art initiative that brings visitors to that community and the Silo art project in Central/western Victoria that has created a boon to local businesses. Tourists now don’t drive through the town; they now stop and stay to take in those large-scale silo mural projects.

Perhaps with this growing interest in art tourism and the wealth of artwork abundantly visible in this exhibition it may be time to consider the The Condensery as a major regional gallery space with the funding for and arts manager/curator to oversee the display and management of the arts facility.

The various sponsors of the art awards including the major sponsor the Bendigo Bank clearly support the artists and their community. The Hon. Shayne Neumann federal member for Blair, and Somerset Mayor Graham Lehman speaking at the awards event both identified and praised the importance of the arts to the community. So perhaps now is the time for the next step.

 

Dr Doug Spowart

 

The formal group at the Awards presentation night…… PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

 

THE AWARDS

We selected the 3D category first and reviewed personal favourites and their stories – sometimes guided by the title. We were also interested in the techniques employed and the way the artwork operated within the 3D space. A small bronze work entitled Swim Squad by Mela Cooke was selected as the First Prize. The sculpture represents a stilled moment of two figures by a pool. Swimming togs and bathing caps in a greenish patina clad the two young female figures their legs dawn up encircled by arms and clasped by hand.

(Photographs from the SASI website courtesty of LeAnne Vincent)

 

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Next we approached the textiles and I was interested in Beata’s insights into the range of materials and techniques presented. Works I this category included traditional tapestry, contemporary image-making through materials collaged together with extensive over-sewing. The First Prize winner and the inaugural Hetty Van Boven Textile Award was Elisabeth Czaia with her work Afternoon Shadow. The work was the representation of a room interior with the perspective flattened to resemble a two-dimensional space. The colour scheme was a riot of colour predominantly green with accents of purple and tangerine.

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The Photography category consisted of a variety approaches to the discipline from traditional pictorialism to contemporary digital montage. Gerry O’Connor won the First Prize with a portrait entitled Warren Palmer Artist. The monochrome photograph was large in size and was frank in its direct and powerful presentation of the subject.

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Painting/Works on paper was won by a mult-coloured woodblock print by Owen Hutchison entitled The Long Flight…and some stars fell into the sea. This large print suggested a mythical allegory that spoke of flight and a night journey.

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Youth Award was won by a large drawing by Aneldi van Wyck. Entitled My identity that was a self-portrait. The drawing was skillfully and carried out honouring the media of its creation.

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Sharon McKenzie with Woven Destiny 3 won the special prize category of Susan Cory Contemporary Award. Originally submitted in the fabric section this work exhibited a very contemporary use of various materials over layered with hand sewing. There is a feeling of the work being just put down as threads dangle as if there is more work to be done.

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The award of The Best In Show was won by Margaret Underdown with her painting Home Paddock. Though a representational landscape in style this large work captured the emotive spirit of place. For both Beata and I have driven down from Toowoomba that morning where the ranges were enshrouded in mist and the early morning light diffused – that may have contributed to our consensus on that decision.

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One prize was awarded by votes cast by attendees to the exhibition. The People’s Choice was won by Kathy Ellem with her painting of a male horseman entitled Edges.

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President of SASI Betty Williams thanks curator LeAnne Vincent PHOTO: Victoria Cooper

 

THE FULL AWARDS LIST: 2019 Somerset Bendigo Bank Art Award Winners

 

$5000 Best of Show – Margaret Underdown, Home Paddock

$1000 Photography Prize – Gerry O’Connor, Warren Palmer Artist

Highly Commended PhotographyLinda McPhee The Second Best Café in Town and Wayne Gillis Satin Bower Bird Male

$1000 3D Prize – Mela Cooke, Swim Squad

Highly Commended 3DRussell Solomon, Have They Always Been Here and Carol Forster, Love Not War

$1000 Painting/Works on paper Prize – Owen Hutchison, The Long Flight…and some stars fell into the sea

$750 Painting/Works on paper Prize – Charmaine Davis, Mountain

Highly Commended Painting/Works on paper – Clay Dawson, Ships in the Night and Odessa Mahony de Vries Sea view

$1000 Hetty Van Boven Textile Award – Elisabeth Czaia, Afternoon Shadow

Highly Commended Textile Wendy Houston, Dear Stag and Jodie Wade, Grass Trees

$500 Susan Cory Contemporary Prize – Sharon McKenzie, Woven Destiny 3

$500 Youth Prize – Aneldi Van Wyk, My Identity

$500 Somerset Artist Prize – Marcel Desbiens, Transition

People’s Choice – Kathy Ellem, Edges

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Somerset Bendigo Bank Art Awards sign

Photographs of the artworks are from the SASI website courtesty of LeAnne Vincent

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ADELAIDE HERE WE COME – BEST PHOTOBOOKS & WORKSHOP

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Adelaide Road Trip

 

The Australian and New Zealand Photobook Awards have been to Hobart, Canberra and Brisbane and now we are taking them to Adelaide.

The presentation of the books, a talk about the photobooks by Doug Spowart and a one-day workshop will be hosted by us at Adelaide’s Centre for Creative Photography.

 

ANZ Photobook Awards Finalists

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COME AND SEE THE BEST AUSTRALIAN & NEW ZEALAND PHOTOBOOKS

On Saturday September 28 the books will be on show from 10am–4.00pm. The Official Launch, the announcement of the People’s Choice Award and a talk about photobooks by Doug Spowart will take place at 2.00pm.

There is no charge to view the books and attending the talk however we do request that you book via this Eventbrite link: https://tinyurl.com/y225btkx

 

 

 

Arranging photos

ATTEND A ONE-DAY PHOTOBOOK WORKSHOP

On Sunday September 29 photobook road trip co-ordinators Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart will present concepts and hands on practical exercises for working on photobook projects. These are designed to assist the photographer in distilling images from their archives and then structure them into an engaging narrative flow. The workshop includes practical work in hand-making photobook formats and preparing book ideas for Print-on-Demand output.

There is a charge to attend the workshop – Details of the workshop and booking information can be found on this Eventbrite Link: https://tinyurl.com/y2pnpbhu

 

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Victoria Cooper & Doug Spowart acknowledge the support of MomentPro Photobooks and the Centre for Creative Photography in making this event possible.

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BEAUTIFUL FRUIT – Tilley Wood+Linda Spowart

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Beautiful Fruit Invite

 

Beautiful Fruit installation PHOTO: Doug Spowart

Beautiful Fruit installation in the Sidespace Gallery at Salamanca   ……….   PHOTO: Doug Spowart

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A Fruitful Place – a review by Victoria Cooper

 

Place, of course, as opposed to the more generalized ‘site’ or ‘land,’ is a specific collaboration between nature and people, constantly altered and inevitably defined by narratives from the contact zones.[1]

This exhibition is the result of a collaborative interaction between the artists, the cotoneaster tree and its environment. The intent was to create visual responses to observations of the tree and its rhythms over time that forms:

… a dedication to and recording of this tree. Its life is multifaceted, one that connects to and affects the space and people around it. Its vital and variable presence is what they are drawn to and present here. This exhibition is the fruit of the artists and subject together.

Tilley Wood artist with light 4 + light 5, 2019 Oil on canvas ………. PHOTO: Doug Spowart

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Although Linda and Tilley approached the project from two different perspectives both were influenced by the phenomena of light and wind to define the tree, its form and movement. Tilley’s paintings of the tree evoked a poetic place illuminated by memory. Linda’s prints were layered using cyanotype photograms[2] or inks in contact with parts of the tree and its surroundings, then over printed with gesso and drawings were full of detail referencing the visual language of botanical illustration and empirical scientific evidence gathering.

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Debris 1 Linda Spowart 2019Ink, gesso and graphite on cotton .......... PHOTO: Doug Spowart

Debris 1 Linda Spowart 2019Ink, gesso and graphite on cotton ………. PHOTO: Doug Spowart

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As part of their investigation, the artists individually and collaboratively created through direct contact with parts of the tree: leaves, fruit and branches, they made more cyanotype photograms. These prints were more like impressions, rather than the detailed recording of scientific photographs. On one wall at the entrance to the main gallery there was an impressive installation of these blue prints creating a feeling for the tree’s blue shadowy and dappled light space.

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Beautiful Fruit Nos. 3-13 Tilley Wood+Linda Spowart 2019 Wet Cyanotype & gold leaf on cotton

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The cotoneaster tree was both subject and collaborator in this exhibition. As part of their investigations, the artists attached drawing devices to branches of the tree in order that it would self record its movement without the intervention of the artists’ hand. This is an important methodology for many artists as it opens up an inclusive space where the agency or ‘voice’ of objects and other life-forms as collaborators can present new and surprising perspectives. Australian artist, Cameron Robbins[3], presented the drawings that were formed through devices attached to a windmill to record the movement of the wind around Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart, Tasmania. Robbins intent was

… to connect to landscape, and to the greater dynamic of the whole climate system; how patterns move through a particular location. For me, that’s the most direct way to access the greater energies and forces around us.’ Cameron Robbins[4]

 

Tree Drawings #0001- #0026  ………. PHOTO: Doug Spowart

 

Art when made in collaboration with both human and non-human entities involves a corporeal, sensate empathy that evolves over time spent in contact within their space and place. These are dynamic contact zones where human and nature interaction can stimulate the development of alternative views and knowledge to bring fresh ways of understanding the changing world we share with Others. Both Tilley and Linda have engaged with the Place that is the tree, not to objectify or imitate, but to wonder, imagine, transform and be transformed.

 

Dr Victoria Cooper

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NOTES:
[1] Stuart, M & Lippard, L 2010, Michelle Stuart, Sculptural Objects: Journeys In & Out of the Studio, Charta, Milano, page 11.
[2] The Cyanotype process was developed by Sir John Herschel in the 1840’s and at this time 19 th century botanist Anna Atkins used the process to document her plant specimens. The process: water colour paper or cloth is coated with a chemical made by the light sensitive combination of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate. After drying, objects placed on the material and then exposed in sunlight. Ultra-violet light is required and exposure times may be 8-10 minutes although times may vary depending on the time of year – or day. Many photographer also expose enlarged contact negatives of photographs onto the cyanotype emulsion.
[3] Cameron Robbins, Field Lines, MONA see https://mona.net.au/museum/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/cameron-robbins-field-lines
[4] ibid. an in-text quote from the article by the curators, Nicole Durling and Olivier Varenne

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2019 PHOTOBOOK ROAD TRIP BEGINS – HOBART

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The 2019 Photobook Road Trip

PHOTOBOOKS @ TOPSPACE STUDIO/GALLERY IN HOBART

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Ilona Schneider and Doug Spowart

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The 2019 Photobook Road Trip began last night at the TopSpace StudioGallery in Hobart. The Australia & New Zealand Photobook Awards (ANZPA) exhibition was installed by Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart. Visitors to the Gallery were welcomed by the gallery Director Ilona Schneider.

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Vicky setting up the dispaly

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On show were the 12 Finalists and Award winners of the 2018 Australia and New Zealand Photobook Awards sponsored by MomentoPro Photobooks. The books were:

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Winners 2018

Finalists 2018 from 117 entries:

SEE More about the ANZPA HERE
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The event as attended by around 30 participants including representatives from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the Allport Library, members of the AIPP and representatives from the Hobart Camera Club.
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To cover costs associated with the gallery hire a raffle was conducted with books by Cooper+Spowart and ANZPA catalogues and MomentoPro’s ‘Publish Your “Bloody” Photobook‘ booklets.
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Looking at the Cooper+Spowart books

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COOPER+SPOWART presented a small selection of the concertina photobooks including  YOU ARE HERE and QUESTIONING+KNOWING.
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Around 6.00pm Doug made a presentation about the awards and the current state of the Antipodean photobook. A lengthy Q&A session followed and private conversations and continued book viewing took place well after the intended finish time.
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Doug presenting his talk

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THANK YOU!

Thanks to Ilona Schneider and the AIPP coordinator Matt Palmer for their assistance with the presentation and Momento Pro for making the books available.
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CANBERRA is the next stop in the PHOTOBOOK ROAD TRIP on July 20 at PhotoAccess where the books will be displayed, Doug will present a talk about photobooks and Doug+Vicky will present a workshop on photobook forms and the photobook narrative.
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D+V Coming to Canberra

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#MomentoProBooks #ANZPhotobookAwards #PhotobookRoadTrip #Photobookjousting
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THE HIDDEN ART OF DRAWING – REVEALED: JADA 2018

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Artists fill notebooks with drawings using a range of mark-making methods from burnt sticks (charcoal), lead and coloured pencils to ink pens and colour washes. These can be renderings that replicate the subject in ways that a camera might. They can be of details and juxtapositions of elements. Or they can be quick-made glimpses full of emotion and movement that come not so much from the subject itself but rather from the artist’s response to the inspiration created by what they witness.

Later in the artmaking process the artist retrieves these references and in the studio space with the grander media of canvas, metal or expanses of paper the drawing’s trace is carefully made and through the application of pigments applied by brush and palette knife or engraved, etched, inked and pressed. Here a ‘real’ artwork is made. Yet, underneath the final artwork the reference drawing resides – hidden.

 

The secret hidden ‘art’ of the artist’s drawing has for 30 years been the focus of the biennial Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award (JADA) at the Grafton Regional Gallery (GRG). In this award the drawing is revered not as an aide-mémoire for the artist’s later work but rather as the product of a deliberate creative and expressive artmaking activity.

 

The gallery has as it’s rationale for JADA and the GRG Drawing Collection the following statements:

The award seeks to encourage and promote innovation and excellence and plays a vital role in fostering Australian drawing practice.

The … collection exemplifies the developments and changing parameters of contemporary drawing since 1988. The collection explores the way that drawing resonates as a contemporary medium, demonstrating the relevance and strength of drawing. Works in the collection offer a varied and extensive overview of drawing ranging from highly resolved articulate works to spontaneous expressive works that are mostly retained on the conventional support of paper.

… the collection has attractively developed through the tastes, opinions and approaches of the various judges into a collection that is compelling, thought provoking, innovative, exuberant, and diverse.

 

JADA 2018 Grafton Regional Gallery installation

For those interested in artists in their practice of drawing a visit to the GRG will reveal all. In 2018 fifty-five artworks were selected from 498 entries by a pre-selection panel of suitably qualified persons. The selection of the major JADA award as well as acquisitions for the gallery’s drawing collection were adjudicated by Anne Ryan, Curator of Drawing, Prints and Watercolours from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

 

What is surprising in the JADA selection is the way in which the techniques and media of drawing the can lead to such a diverse and stimulating variety of artworks. There are works that:

  • Emulate photographs in their fine detail and tonal rendition
  • Are exquisite in the draughtsmanship expressed
  • Show the artist’s use of the drawing to ‘find the edge’ and give shape and form to the subject
  • The emergent use of computer software, digital output, and digital media animation screen presented time-based artworks
  • Express the textural nature of the drawing media on the receiving surface
  • The passing of time in a stilled framed work
  • Explore caricatures
  • Play with simple gestural lines and equally simple ideas

The winner of the $30k 2018 JADA award was Todd Fuller, a Sydney based artist with his work titled Ode to Clarence as described in the Gallery’s website as: a hand drawn and painted animation, created during a residency at Grafton Regional Art Gallery.

The work deals with the current issues in Grafton associated with the building of a new bridge connecting the city with the highway. Through a digitally presented narrative relating to the disruption to the community caused by the terraforming, street changes and house demolitions caused by the bridge building. The work is created as a continuous drawing in parts.

 

 

Some may question how this work is classified as a ‘drawing’ as we usually encounter a drawing as a static artwork in a notebook, on paper or in a frame. As such time-based digital media presentations and other such works present a challenge to the traditional paradigm. These digital media ‘drawings’ may be documentation of drawing projects or of performances commenting on the concept of drawing. As we know there is a significant history of animated drawings presented as moving picture films. It should also be acknowledged that documentation by video might also make visible a drawing work in transformation. Though it might be asked how do these works ‘fit’ with the term ‘drawing’? And when does a drawing cease being a ‘drawing’ and become a work in the discipline of animation or digital media?

Interestingly Fuller’s drawing work uses a technique similar to that used by the artist Blu in his famous street graffiti video documentary MUTO. Blu describes his work as:a seven minute animated mural.

Thoughts such as these will no doubt occupy the minds of many visitors to the JADA exhibition as it travels around the eastern seaboard over the next two years. Whatever the outcome for such thoughts ultimately JADA has provided an important biennial review and space for critical commentary and reflection on the discipline and has stimulated this enquiry. The award also reveals and makes visible the work of artists, it shares their stories and ideas through the discipline of drawing – perhaps the oldest of all human creative endeavours.

 

Dr Doug Spowart

With thanks to Dr Cooper for editorial support

 

JADA 2018 Grafton Regional Gallery installation

 

FOOTNOTE:

Other works acquired for the Grafton Regional Gallery Collection with their $10k allocation are:

  • David Fairbairn Portrait of T.J.K No 1, 
  • Kedal Gear Haze, 
  • Nicci Haynes Drawing Dancing (an animation),
  • Noel McKenna Silent Assassin and
  • Claire Primrose Assembled Landscape 3.

 

An illustrated catalogue of the JADA entries can be downloaded here: 2018_JADA_Finalists_Catalogue

Apart from the Gallery exhibition in late 2018 the JADA will tour regional galleries over the next two years to the following venues; Manning Regional Gallery, Hervey Bay Regional Gallery, University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery, Griffith Regional Art Gallery, Latrobe Regional Gallery and the Tamworth Regional Gallery.

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Text ©2018 Doug Spowart  Photographs of gallery ©2018 Doug Spowart. Copyright of artworks is retained by the artist
Many artworks have been photographed to show the nature of the framing and matting of the work.

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IMPRINT JOURNAL: Article on regional arts awards

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IMPRINT COVER Vol53 #2

 

In March this year we were approached by the Editor of IMPRINT MAGAZINE, the journal of the Print Council of Australia to write a piece about regional galleries and the national awards that they coordinate. Of particular interest to Editor Andrew Stephens was Artspace Mackay’s Libris Awards: National Artists’ Book Award, and Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery’s National Works on Paper Awards.

We were familiar with both awards events and in particular we’ve had a long connection with the Libris Awards as entrants and reviewers. In 2017 we visited the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery as viewed and exhibition of works from their awards. Many of you will also be aware of our interest in, and support of regional art so we were excited by the opportunity that the commission provided.

We set about to prepare the commentary and to add extra voices to the piece we contacted some artists who have significant participation in regional arts awards. What follows is the article with the 4 page layout and photographs followed by the text, references and acknowledgements.

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Imprint: Page 22+23

Imprint: Page 24+25

 

BEYOND THE CITY LIMITS:

Two regional art awards for artists’ books and works on paper

 

The art gallery is a place for presentation, display and the sharing of art. It is a space that orchestrates the development of cultural discourse by connecting the world of the artist with an art-interested audience including members of the public, art students, the artist’s peers, curators, critics and collectors. Big city art galleries can mount blockbuster national and international shows and also cover a diverse range of disciplines that regional galleries cannot ever hope to match. The regional gallery can however specialise in key areas of activity and collection by including in their programs discipline based national awards. These galleries also aren’t so constrained by orthodoxy and can open up the dialogue leading to more widespread changes. Through the awards they can push boundaries and help to define what is contemporary in various disciplines.

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Two noteworthy regional galleries and their specialisations are Artspace Mackay (AM) has the Libris Awards: National Artists’ Book Award (Libris) and Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (MPRG) has National Works on Paper Awards (NWOP). To ensure the currency of the entries both awards are offered biennially with a requirement that the works entered must have been completed within the preceding two years. Each gallery has a particular focus for their award.

The Libris Awards provide Artspace Mackay with: ‘an opportunity to become known as a centre for artists’ books; we develop/build meaningful relationships over many years with artists; the award attracts the latest and best works from artists in the field and introduces us to new artists; and provides us with a wonderful opportunity to acquire new artists’ books for our Art Collection by leading artists in the field’.[1]

At the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery the NWOP’s role ‘is to support and promote contemporary Australian artists working on or with paper. Works may be executed in any medium on or with paper… The paper must act as the main two or three-dimensional support of the work’.[2]

These Awards provide a testing ground for the new ideas, current aspects of technique and new/contemporary themes as well as many other art practice related opportunities. Sasha Grishin, in his ‘Judges Notes’ the 2016 Libris Awards commented that: ‘The contemporary artists book is characterised by boundless freedom’, and adds that: ‘… it has absorbed many conceptual frameworks, many art mediums and technologies and goes across the spectrum of the senses’.[3] Entries in the NWOP Awards also exhibit Grishin’s ‘boundless freedom’ as MPRG Director Jane Alexander states in the 2016 catalogue: ‘Through printing, drawing, folding, sculpting and collage, paper is at the forefront of artistic experimentation… increasingly we are seeing this practice pushed to new and exciting dimensions’.[4]

Much of an artist’s life can be isolated making it difficult to connect with a broader community of practice, which can also be fractured by physical distance and conceptual difference. Therefore artists see these awards as an opportunity to present their most recent work. They seek the recognition that comes from selection and being shown in the awards’ survey exhibitions. This acknowledgement also locates them in a review of contemporary practice specific to their discipline. Nationally respected printmaker and artist bookmaker Dianne Fogwell generously shared with us the three main reasons she entered awards: ‘1. To stay abreast of who is professionally working in my field and 2; so that my contemporaries know I am still working professionally in my field and 3; I can enter work that does not suit the gallery exhibition either through content or scale’.[5]

There is also the potential benefit of exposure, critical review and for some the financial reward of purchase or winning a major award. It should be noted that both the Libris and NWOP receive significant sponsorship and support from range of sources to make possible their awards[6]. Deanna Hitti won the 2008 Libris Award and the 2009 Books Beyond Words Award held by the East Gippsland Art Gallery. She comments that, ‘I am quite fortunate to have been the recipient of two major Australian artist book awards in consecutive years… My whole arts practice gained exposure and in a way it validated my work and presented a path to promote my work through’.[7]

The choice of appropriate judges for these awards is critical as through their decisions a continual review of the nation-wide practice of the award’s associated disciplines is carried out. The selected judges for the Libris and NWOP come from major collecting and exhibiting institutional backgrounds and are widely respected within their specific disciplines.[8] Other awards may have judges who are also acclaimed artists, art critics and teaching academics.

Before entering any awards the artist needs to consider their work in relation to the competition criteria and the judging process. In this evaluation some gritty questions tend to surface regarding how their work is to be considered by the selection committee and the awards audience. For example: How much is my art worth? Will the winner’s work need to appear comparable to the amount of prize money associated with the award? Will awards that favour the spectacular and immediately accessible works marginalise those that require time and focus? As the practice of book arts is very broad and varied, from book sculpture to fine press to zines—in rewarding a particular art form/s this could promote one form over many other worthy and incomparable works. If so this could narrow the potential for a variety of work to be accepted within the broader practice?

To address questions of diversity, the two awards discussed in this article attempt to provide opportunities to recognise different mediums and the stages of the artist’s career. Libris has in the past offered a separate award for Zines, and have always included a local artists award. This year they are featuring the altered book. Both the Libris and NWOP also include emerging artists’ awards along with a budget to acquire a variety of other works selected for the exhibition.

Another salient question for the artist to consider relates to the handling of the work and its display, particularly for unusual work, such as sculptural and installation works that are unframed. Many galleries may not have the capacity to appropriately display these works and still allow for quality public engagement. The Libris awards require that entrants include a document on how they would like work would be shown. This way the artist has to consider whether the work should be handled and how it will be placed in the gallery space.

Although an important part of an artists career awards should not define them and their creative work potential. Dianne Fogwell presents a grounded perspective on how the award should influence the artmaking process: ‘Being selected as a finalist or to be the people’s choice or winning the award or prize gives you heart as making art is a lonely thing and more so the longer you do it. Does it make a difference to the way I make my work, no, has it made a difference to who buys my work, I hope not, as it is the work that’s important in the end’.[9]

To build an archive and history of these important survey events both Libris and NWOP create records of their awards in the form of catalogues and online in accessible PDF versions.[10] Libris posted 2016 judge Sasha Grishin’s award notes[11] and an illustrated list of works.[12] NWOP has over the last two events, 2014 & 2016 published a physical catalogue and online versions as well.[13] Additionally AM and MPRG can be contacted for further information on historical records.

These archives add to the history of the award as well as a snapshot of the adjudicated contemporary practice in the disciplines at the time of the award and the value that collectors and the art market place on artworks. What may be interesting as an enhancement to any art award could be consideration for the creation of a democratic record of entry where all entries are listed in an online format to show the complete story of all artists who entered the award and their works.

CONCLUSION:

After the judgements have been made, the winners received recognition, the acquisitions completed and the remaining works returned, the exhibition may be over but the legacy of the awards lingers on. Through the initiative of the regional gallery, sponsor support and the contribution of artists, these awards create a fertile space where ongoing discourse can both challenge and shape the development of the art.

 

Prepared by Dr Victoria Cooper and Dr Doug Spowart

With thanks to: Tracey Heathwood Director Artspace Mackay and Narelle Russo MPRG Curator-Collections / Registrar.

Dr Lyn Ashby, Dianne Fogwell, Deanna Hitti, Johanna Kambourian, Dr Clyde McGill, Dr Felicity Rea.

 

[1] Correspondence received from Artspace Director Tracey Heathwood
[2] https://mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au/Exhibitions/National-Works-on-Paper Viewed 10 April, 2018.
[3] http://www.artspacemackay.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/205398/2016_Libris_Awards_Artspace_Mackay.pdf   Viewed 4 April, 2018
[4] Jane Alexander, 2016 NWOP Catalogue, p 3.
[5] Correspondence from Dianne Fogwell
[6] The Libris and NWOP offer significant monetary prizes: Libris—4 awards, 2 acquisitive) totalling $15,000, and the NWOP offers a major acquisitive award of $15,000. Both awards have acquisitive awards budgets – NWOP allocates a further $35,000.
[7] Correspondence from Dianna Hitti
[8] Judges for 2018 Libris: Roger Butler AM, Senior Curator Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Australia Helen Cole, former Coordinator Australian Library of Art
and the 2018 NWOP, Jane Alexander, MPRG Director;
Victoria Lynn, Director, TarraWarra Museum of Art;
Dr Kyla McFarlane, Curator of Academic Programs (Research) Ian Potter Museum of Art.
[9] Correspondence from Dianne Fogwell
[10] http://www.artspacemackay.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/204955/2016LibrisAwards_IllustratedListofWorks.pdf  Viewed 7 April, 2018
[11] http://www.artspacemackay.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/205398/2016_Libris_Awards_Artspace_Mackay.pdf  Viewed 7 April, 2018
[12] http://www.artspacemackay.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/204955/2016LibrisAwards_IllustratedListofWorks.pdf  Viewed 7 April, 2018
[13] https://mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au/Exhibitions/National-Works-on-Paper Viewed 7 April, 2018

 

 

SOME OTHER AUSTRALIAN – PRINTMAKING + ARTISTS’ BOOK AWARDS @ March 2018

Manly Artists Book Award—Bi-yearly, next 2019

https://www.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/arts-and-culture/manly-artists-book-award

Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award—Bi-yearly, next 2019

http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/Community/Hazelhurst/Exhibitions/Previous-Exhibitions/2017/Hazelhurst-Art-on-Paper-Award-2017

Gippsland Print Award—Bi-yearly, next 2019

http://www.gippslandartgallery.com/prizes/gippsland-print-award/

Swan Hill Print & Drawing Acquisitive Awards—Bi-yearly, current 2018

https://gallery.swanhill.vic.gov.au/2018/03/print-drawing-finalists/

2017 Geelong Aquisitive Print Awards

http://www.geelonggallery.org.au/cms_uploads/docs/2017-geelong-acquisitive-print-awards_online.pdf

Banyule Award for Works on Paper—Hatch Contemporary Arts Space

https://www.banyule.vic.gov.au/Arts-and-Events/Banyule-Award-for-Works-on-Paper

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