METCALFE PRIZE: ADDRESS BY KARL DE WAAL
Welcome to the BIA.
Firstly a few words of thanks to BIA. Brisbane Institute of Art offers a unique place where people from all walks of life can come and tap into skills and experiences which , many a time, lay dormant. With it's exceptional tutors and broad spectrum of courses people can reconnect with the artist that lurks in us all. From drawing to painting to sculpture to jewellery to ceramics and everything in between it is all here for the taking.
What an honour to be chosen as the judge for the end of year show. A true opportunity. Considering the only thing I’ve ever won was a Bucky Beaver iron on transfer for a colouring-in competition when I was 9 I was truly touched. Judging is a strange thing. Ultimately it is a personal and very subjective experience. What I see as worthy could be seen by others as irrelevant. I have been in countless competitions as a finalist only to be disillusioned by the outcomes. Don't let what I see as a valid and worthy acknowledgement impact on your own personal art practice. All the work in this show is worthy of acknowledgement. Each individual is reconnecting with the creative side of themselves. That alone is enough. Too often the flurry and responsibilities of life offer countless distractions and our artistic leanings are pushed to the side.....to the worlds great loss. Credit to each one of you for taking the time to create. To make stuff. To paint, to sculpt, to explore, to challenge, to tap into the very fibre of what makes us human.
I know there is the old catch phrase regards judging which usually involves the words 'It was a difficult decision' but these cliches only appear because of certain realities. It is true of this exhibition. The breadth and depth of all the work on display is not only exceptional in quality but also exceptional in the sense that humanity is triumphant. What I see is the pulse of the world on show. The individual staking a claim in what it is to be human. In the midst of such a fractured world the art here restores faith in the human condition. To be compelled to create is all we can hope for.
That being said however, my job was to choose one particular work that resonated with me. Well, there were many. I had no choice but to also commend certain works that struck a chord with me. In the end I choose one winner and 10 works which I considered worthy of note. In no particular order the 10 students whose work who are receiving an acknowledgement are;
Caroline Holiday for her simple and elegant clay vessel. This piece with it's minimal and very raw aesthetic captures the fundamental beauty of what is possible with clay.
Jan Russell for her work titled 'Packed hopes and Fears'. All the work in Belinda Sinclairs class was of an exceptional quality but this piece in particular, through its simple and raw execution created a very moving work which subtly addressed the insecurities and paradoxes of life which torment us all.
Amanda Miller for her untitled expressive drawing. There was a emotive enigmatic power in the simplicity of the two forms and a strength in the application of paint. It revealed a raw talent and much potential for development.
Yeen Densers' work 'Rainbow Trout with Basil Dressing served with Kipfler Potatoes' made me smile. There was a contemporary surrealist pop aspect to the work. The imaginative quality of the painting with it's cut and collage composition was a breath of fresh air.
Anna Little Woods 'Soviet Subway' was an immediate hit. The rawness of the drawing, the almost childlike scribbles capturing the essence of the subject. The starkness palpable.
Murray Dowty's 'The People look like Flowers at Last' for its very austere and minimal use of material. Almost as if it was a ready made construction found at a powder coating factories colour chart samples warehouse.
Nick Coulson for his work 'The Stroboscope'. Nick is a true artist that embraces and manages chance. All his work, and there was much, reveals an obsession with process and the benefits of collage as a vehicle for expression and design.
John Ganis's painting for the way it reveals raw energy and pure expressionism. Portraiture at it's very best. The madness and intensity of the brushtrokes, the control to know when to stop.
Emma Campbell's 'Egg Shell Meadow' reveals an inherent ability with abstraction and a lively and invigorating relationship with the process of painting. The work was a true joy to behold, the layering and application of paint and mark making gradually building the engaging visual.
And Finally, the last commendation goes to Clare Robinson for her untitled work. A seemingly innocent and uncomplicated excursion into the experience of art making. Her naive drawings and colours offering a myriad of techniques and possibilities.
NOW, the winner...
Of all the impressive and compelling work in the show there was one small series of work which caught my eye and struck a chord with me. The processes employed are deceptively simple. The work in question is by Sandra Taylor and is titled the 'Journey Series' It is a profoundly moving work. The word 'journey' has been bandied about a lot these last few years...the Survivor journey, our weight loss journey, our X facto journey, our Block journey, our Idol journey. It is a word that has been hijacked by the media. The realm of junk TV. Sandra's work reclaims the word in it's truest sense. The holistic journey. Her etchings employ the strong visual elements and rich metaphorical language of birds, maps and boats to explore the universal dynamics of hope and loss, sadness and beauty. It is a message that is as significant to each of us as it is to the souls experiencing the adversities and madness of the global refugee crisis. It looks at the very nature of place and belonging, and the paths we take.. Some by choice. Some by chance. Some by force. It makes us question our own sense of displacement. Our mortality. The work utilizes the layering of these three motifs to create truly moving images which comment on the melancholy of life and our endless search for serenity, peace, place and home. Congratulations Sandra.
On a final note let me once again offer my congratulations to all and thank every one of you for taking the time and making the effort to create art. To experience and tap into our fundamental need to express ourselves. It makes the world a more tolerant and beautiful place.
There's more than a few bargains here and with Xmas just around the corner get out your wallets and purses and buy a gift that keeps on giving. Help the artists out, cause they/we certainly need it. With all the mainstream junk that's peddled at Xmas here's your chance to purchase truly unique gifts that do not grease the ugly wheels of capitalism. Don't buy to invest, buy because you love it.
Thank you and good night