Great Southern Art In Albany

The 2013 Great Southern Art Award is a pleasure to behold.  Showing at the Vancouver Art Centre until Sunday 28th April, 145 Artworks are on display (originally 146 however one was withdrawn amid local controversy which is fodder for a later blog post) and most show considerable and unique interpretation of their subject matter and theme.  Many are well executed, showing a good understanding of their craft and the injection of personal style in their mark making is evident.

Take a closer look

It is worthwhile taking a closer look at many of the artworks that did not receive the judges accolades in this exhibition. Of particular note are the ten artworks by artists; Anne North (#96), Joanne Francis ( #43) Anne Christine Johnson (#60), Peter Lawson (#68), Carmen Sharmen (#120), David Edgar (#36) , Mim Wells (#135), Teresa Barry (#9), Christine Baker (#4) and Jolie Marchant (#79).

Anne North's Protea and Banksia

In Anne North’s oil on canvas Protea and Banksia  (Pictured/ $720), Australian wildflowers form part of the fabric of the room bringing the bush indoors. The foreground flowers are radiant and the lemon background with its hints of pastel pink make this painting visually delightful. Moving downwards from the top of the canvas, I was struck by the suggestion of youthfulness and aging flowing through the work in this direction. At the top of the painting, look for the tree like landscape in the yellow and ballet pink rear wall of the room. It is subtle and quietly peaceful in its beauty, it is the bush from which these flowers would have been plucked.  Moving further south, this theme flows through to the lower flowers, gracefully wilting away in the decaying red vase water. Bold paint strokes head towards the grounded earthy looking table on which the vase sits,  in much the same way a decaying flower past its prime would drop to the forest floor.

Equally fascinating was Joanne Francis’s Acrylic  JJ ($3600). Admittedly,  I  spent considerable time sitting against the far wall of the gallery considering this painting. The subject is a sage- like world weary woman, who appears draped in years of burden, though ironically satisfied and content. She appears to effect her environment and it appears to have made its mark upon her. Francis has incorporated an abundance of texture in this painting that is a vital addition to its drama. The more time I spent with this painting, the more I sensed a message. I came to suspect that this wise woman may in fact not be as old as she initially appeared to me. The longer I considered JJ, the more endearing I found her. How wonderful to view a painting that so honourably portrays its subject and successfully lures its audience to hunger for the full story, revealing  more of her timeless layers.

Contours of the Earth by Anne Christine Johnson ($395) also explores the idea of layers of being and hidden parts. An acrylic and mixed media on board, the hot orange at the top of this painting with its mountain like distant landforms,  meet the earth with an outpouring of emotion. Words are written subtly upon this grounded part of the painting. They are incredibly personal  but would sing true to many. There is an outpouring of emotion beneath (and perhaps behind) these words. Descending lower into this painting we are privy to an oozing organic sustenance that flows beneath the surface. The rich paint colours interconnect and the raw viscosity is almost tangible.

Peter Lawson’s palette knifed oil painting Walk in the gums ($2500) has the heat of a spring walk through a eucalypt forest,  alive with the pulsating energy of the Australian bush.  I could happily walk into this landscape. I hope a foreign visitor buys this one because it so beautifully captures the uniqueness of our ecology,  that which sets the Great Southern of Australia apart from the landscapes of other continents.

Fragile remnant of nature is the title of Carmen Sharmen’s oil on canvas ($ 3000). There is a real feeling of calm before the storm in this painting with an encroaching sense of caution. A natural waterway with an elegant yet timid water bird looking into the tranquil depths is at its centre, then beyond the trees a field of wheat or other farmed crop are depicted. I would love to know if the artist was making precautionary commentary about  agricultural practice and its effects on nature, or if something completely different lay at the heart of Sharmen’s intent. If my interpretation is correct then it is beautifully and gently juxtaposed by the peaceful tone that is equally conveyed by this piece.

As a self declared fan of David Edgar’s oil paintings, I enjoyed contemplating Limpet Shells ( $435). His still life paintings seem to tell a story and transport me to the place of conceptualization. True, my overactive imagination most likely plays an intrinsic part, however for me, Limpet Shells evokes crisp quick moving water gently entering and exiting a rock pool in which three limpet shells have marooned themselves. The variation in textures and blobs of old dried paint that look as if they’ve been scraped from a well loved palette and serve this painting well. These shells are never without their knarly imperfections and actually this is what attracts us to study a somewhat plain appearance in nature  more carefully.

In an entirely different treatment of nature, Mim Wells’ acrylic on canvas Birdlife ($920) brings vibrant birdlike energy to a tree. Full of the rustle of the wind and the shimmying of branches,  Well’s has painted the foliage of the tree in the form of birds on the move.

Teresa Barry’s Secret Shores ($980) is an interesting abstract acrylic. Her colour choices are appealing and I can only imagine what shore they depict. Is it Albany at night across the harbour as seen from Little Grove? Or, as the bold colouring and moody stillness of the water suggest, a more dynamic harbour rich in culture and nightlife such as Hong Kong?

Gazing at the myriad of extremely fine brush marks and the in and out undulation of Christine Baker’s untitled work ($1200), I was entranced. This large square acrylic on canvas is reminiscent of some of the art made by contemporary Australian indigenous artists. I know nothing of Baker’s heritage but enjoyed viewing this abstract for its well conceived patterns and composition.

The spirit of play and youthful exuberance leap out of Jolie Marchant’s  Momentum ($130). This lino print possesses the energy of an excited child. I loved the eagerness of the wheel of hands reaching for kites,  paddles or boat shapes and water, within the circular confines of a bicycle wheel. I was drawn from a distance towards this artwork. The clarity and simplicity are to be applauded.

Award Winners 2013

Much has already been eloquently written by the judges of the 2013 Great Southern Art Prize. These comments are available at the venue alongside the exhibition catalogue and have been published in the local print press so I will not repeat their views here. Many of these views I share, other than the decision not to award a 3D prize .

Susan Merli’s  (# 87) mixed media artwork  Unleaded Distillate ($840) deserved its high commendation. The humour in this piece make it very appealing which  is somewhat unexpected given the primary image  is a fuel bowser. My son Jordan challenged me to take a closer look at this painting, questioning why the petrol pump had eyes.  Upon closer inspection I realised the eyes emanate from a  Ned Kelly style head, propped upon the pump complete with not one, but two large price labels. Porongorups is playfully written in the top left of the work and Ned Kelly’s eyes gaze up towards it in a sheepish manner.  The remainder of the painting is playfully littered with whimsical wildflowers and the overall feel of the work is cheerful. I can only imagine the underlying theme may be that the price of petrol in the Porongorups is highway robbery. Wouldn’t you love to ask the artist?

Renee Farrant’s creation One people, One place, One paper (#38) is a busy hand cut paper sculpture ($1970).  A cacophony of birds and flowers are encapsulated by a honeycomb- like surround that exudes all the effervescence of spring. There is so much to see in this intriguing paper sculpture. Notable is that the human imprint upon this landscape mostly takes place in the background rather than the foreground of the compositions layering.

Meleah Farrell’s Careened (pictured) is another of my favorite picks. Awarded this year’s Photo Media Award, at first distant glance  it appears to be a sparse coastal landscape. Salt effected vegetation, sun saturated colours, sandy beach and the tide gone out, all appear to be the subject matter. On further closer inspection the photo reveals itself to be an extreme close-up of a dry docked boat. I love Meleah’s work because it appears very painterly and she has a wonderful eye for finding and interpreting the details and beauty in everyday objects and moments. Meleah sees what so many of us take for granted as part of a whole and in capturing these moments exposes us to a more sensual experience then just the image before her. This really is photography as art.

There are a good many more artworks worth taking time to explore as part of the Great Southern Art Award. I am sure that many interpretations and reactions will result from this exhibition’s audience and I would love to read about other people’s experiences of viewing this exhibition.  I invite you to comment, so please feel welcome to do so.

The comments made herein only represent my personal interpretation of and personal opinions about the artwork exhibited. They should not be mistaken for an expression of artistic statement by the artists mentioned. My intention in discussing artwork within this blog is to open a broader community conversation,  beyond the  limiting discussions of what is deemed “good” and “bad”, instead focusing the conversation upon how art is seen and interpreted, representing various points of view.

4 thoughts on “Great Southern Art In Albany

  1. Thanks for the great review of the others artists in this exhibition. I told Christine Baker about your post, she was chuffed and proud. On behalf of Christine I thank you, as she doesn’t have computer access.

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