review 2008

Review of Redland Art Awards 2008

Presented by Redland Yurara Art Society and Redland Art Gallery
30 November 2008 – 25 January 2009
Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland

This is the second time the Redland Art Awards for painting has been conducted in a new format. The competition now has a stronger national focus and occurs biennially. It is also hung in the attractive facility of Redland Art Gallery, situated in Cleveland's business/shopping precinct and within a stone's throw of Toondah Harbour (pathway to North Stradbroke Island). Appropriately held during the summer, this popular award exhibition of the recent work of Australian artists is garnering increased attention. This is proved by the more than 500 entries (by jpg and written statement) up by 100 from the 2006 event. Partly because of limited wall-space, but also to prevent visitor fatigue, the selection panel chose 47 works to be hung.

Daniel Mafe, a respected painter in his own right and teacher at QUT, Brisbane, was appointed sole judge of the finalist's paintings. After much deliberation Mafe chose The Long Goodbye (2007) by Nick Ashby for First Prize. To me, this was a restrained painting that grew in depth and meaning the longer I stood in front of it. Based on birds (Pied Butcherbirds?) connected to grid-like lines, each were different. Some birds had white markings which were more prominent while others were more discreet. Two strong responses came to me. I thought of written music (notes on stave) and also of each distinctive bird (common in its species) as being equivalent to people; possibly within a city context. Each bird faced in one direction (right), as though pursuing a unanimous purpose or urge. As with music, the implication with both the bird and human analogy was the duration of time. Over-all, the subtle over-all colouring (greys and soft greens and browns) within which the birds themselves were figured, prompted a metaphysical response as much as a quotidian one. In my opinion, Mafe made the right decision in choosing Ashby's painting as winner.

Many of the works by Ashby's companions were highly commendable. They showed a rich diversity of approach to painting, with a predominance of figurative work. There was good inter-state representation, from NSW especially. Furthermore, it was heartening to see works by eight Indigenous artists; from Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. Two pictures attracted me especially as they demonstrate the complexity of creative expression by Aboriginal practitioners: Josie Kunoth Petyarre's joyful folkloric-style Utopia Bush Football Carnival (2008)Gladdy Kemarre's abstracted response to country Alkwe (Bush Palm) in Ahalpere Country (2008).

Amy Wilson, Gallery Support Officer, told me that `Everyone really liked the Julie Reeves portrait of a young woman and also the painting called Sheltered, by Lyn Diefenbach of pandanus fruit'. I could understand why. Most visitors to Redland Art Gallery would be used to seeing the tropical trees in Queensland and on the other-hand, Reeves' meticulously painted portrait Dark Garden 4 (2007) tapped into our enjoyment of mass media representations of the ideal female with wind-swept hair and carefully applied make-up. (I hasten to state that I also read celebrity magazines and enjoy the fictional lives that are attached!) Not surprising then that Julie Reeves won the People's Choice Award attached to this
biennial exhibition.

I would like to mention a few other paintings that made up this important event staged at a leading Queensland regional gallery in collaboration with a proactive local art society. The first is a painting by Michael Muir from Dee Why, whose oil on canvas, In Good Time (2008), like Ashby's work, touched on the impossibility of regarding life as static. In this thought-provoking painting, Muir adroitly organized shapes to suggest a streetscape where a single figure stands. Everywhere, shadow areas play as important a part as those that are light-filled. The composition, to my mind, goes one step further towards abstraction than Jeffery Smart's masterful urban scenes, however with both, we are left guessing of possible narratives. The art and popular culture borrowings of collagist Marc Renshaw in his Watermark (2008) had a fish as the central protagonist framed by fragments of a $10,000 note and included a power plug and random red dots. A seemingly spontaneous pink brush stroke swept behind the fish and dribbled down unchecked. The work was teasing and mesmerizing. Similarly with the maelstrom-like painting by Capalaba artist David Jones, called Thrice (2008) which was autobiographical and refers to the year in which the artist moved house three times.

Humour was also evident on the opposite wall where Chloe Langford's deliberately naïf portrait bust of a stylish Generation Y woman, titled Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend (2008), carried a label stating that it had won the Jack Vincent Prize. A further profile portrait represented Mark Thompson. His ‘Jennifer Rehearses': Chekov Adelaide (2008) was painted in Whistlerian tones of silvery grey, musk pink and black and I felt the strong presence of this performer with her stoic, confident personality.

They say that landscape artists often come from small rural communities; or at least they spend a good deal of their time outside metropolitan centers. Susan Jacosen from Ballina gives proof of this in one of the few decided abstract paintings in this exhibition of 2008–09. Her Fundamental Land (2008), mixed media image is a lyrical response to the dynamics of a landscape that she feels a deep affinity for. With fluid gestures of black on brown, viewers were spared specific details of location in order to convey the environment as such. There are many other exhibits I could have singled out for comment; sufficient to say in finishing this review, that the Redland Art Awards is demonstrably a well-organized and worthwhile event for artists and audiences alike and that I for one, look forward to the 2010 exhibition.

Anne Kirker
Art Consultant, Curator and Writer
January 2009

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Josie Kunoth Petyarre, Utopia Bush
Football Carnival

Courtesy of the artist and Indigenart,
Mossenson Galleries
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Gladdy Demarre, Alkwe (Bush Plum) in
Ahalpere Country

Courtesy of the artist and Indigenart,
Mossenson Galleries
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Marc Renshaw, Watermark
Courtesy of the artist
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David Jones, Thrice
Courtesy of the artist
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Mark Thompson, 'Jennifer Rehearses':
Chekov Adelaide

Courtesy of the artist
Click image above to view full artwork
Susan Jacobsen, Fundamental Land
Courtesy of the artist