Thursday, September 1, 2016

Newcastle Emerging Artist Prize 2016

Last few days left to see the NEAP winners for 2016.  Yes, I am late, very late in blogging about the exhibition but this in no way reflects anything beyond my difficult time management.  While I initially had involvement with the early stages of this award, I stepped back and so was able to see the event as an outsider, although an outsider with an insider understanding of what it all means and what it takes to stage such an event.

With the end of the Newcastle Community Arts Centre’s current leasing arrangements, and therefore the end of Newcastle Art Space (NAS) Gallery’s location drawing closer, the 2016 NEAP marks a significant historical point in Newcastle’s art history.

My general comments are that overall the works appeared to be of a similar level of art expertise, although it was obvious to me that sculpture and 4D were in fact the strongest group.  While the exhibition hanging display was extremely well organised, it prevented the viewer from judging across categories.  There was little opportunity to gauge how each work related to others in a particular section.  Even reading the media information on the catalogue did not necessarily inform if the work was submitted in one particular category.  I personally would have liked to see the works hung in their categories so the initial visual impact could be seen clearly against each work.  I do understand though, that this often means a less attractive hanging situation.

While I understand the judges’ decisions and the reasons behind each choice, I still take the general perspective that the only people who (totally) agree with the judges are the judges themselves, the winners and others with no vested interest in any work or particular artist.  Everyone else has their own subjective view.  Overall works that drew me personally in for a variety of reasons, be they winners or not, were Ellie Kaufmann’s painting because it leaps off the wall with youth and vitality, and Cheridan Chard’s interesting painting which required quieter contemplation and spoke to me as much about the artist behind the work as the work itself, and thus was a richer experience for me the viewer.  It is no secret that I live in the world of photography and that is somewhat a separate world in some ways from the collective term photo-media general.  The works that spoke about photography and on photography were Dylan Smyth’s colour film image,  a black and white graphic / drawing style work categorised as a photograph by Jesse Henderson, and Scott Probst’s work which appears to reference the medium of photography (analogue) as much as the image itself.  Of course, my interest in alternative and historical photography was well covered by Danielle Minett, Dylan Reilly and Robyn Davis. All the 4D works were worthy winners even though in a small category.  The Works on Paper section always covers a vast range of techniques and ideas with paper as the main support.  There were a number of fine drawings and works in this category.

Overall, this has been a great event for Newcastle and art practitioners. There were some absences though of artists that I believed would fulfil the entry requirements so I can only assume they are now further established along in their careers. With such an anti-art plague infesting Australia within higher levels of decision-making areas at the moment, remember behind each art work is an artist always in need of support regardless of such decisions and artists will still want to make art.

Today Friday 2nd September through to Sunday 4th September are the last days to see these works.  These kind of exhibitions provide the best (and often the cheapest) time to support artists when they need it most.

I know I have said it before but my favourite bumper sticker pretty much says “if you want to support an artist – they all accept cash”.

P.S. I hope to post comments from the winners as soon as possible.

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