Redland Art Awards

Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland
27 October – 27 November, 2006

Queensland lacks a significant competitive art event with a major prize pool like the Archibald-Wynne-Sulman trifecta. So it is encouraging to see a regional art group establishing a Queensland-based art prize, which may, in time, be able to establish some sort of cachet in the national art scene. In 2006 the revamped Redland Art Award moved away from the long history of a local competition under the auspices of the Redland Yurara Art Society (which began in 1962 as The Yurara Art Group). While art awards have been held annually by the group since 1981, this new initiative aims to produce a nationally-representative exhibition on a biennial basis, and, in the long term, to create an art competition with substantial prize money for artists.

While the prize pool is not yet sufficient to attract high-profile national names, the 2006 Redland Art Awards, shown in Cleveland, were presented with greater professionalism in a smaller, more tightly-curated initiative, making a strong down payment on the ambition. Over 400 entries were reduced to a display of 51 works.

First prize of $10,000 was awarded by Queensland College of Art Professor and Deputy Director Pat Hoffie to Longnoonan’s Bushtucker in Nyikina Country, a lively dot painting in resonant colour, which used a pointillist technique to create a highly dynamic picture plane. It was one of seven Aboriginal artworks included, reflecting the strength of this genre within contemporary art in Australia. Second prize ($2,500) went to Abbey McCulloch’s Loz Feliz, a scribbly double image of a girl from Los Angeles, and third prize ($1,000) went to Lyndon Stone’s Family portrait with Dog, a more folksy and narrative-driven image.

Hiromi Ozaki’s Essence of Rose-White evoked the restraint of Japanese painting in a modernist and abstract form, taking out the Meredith Foxton Award of $500, but also reflecting the current interest in Asian art on a national and international level.

The roots of the Redland Yurara Art Society lie in amateur local painters who have been active in organising workshops and classes with more professionally-based artists, and the prize has historically reflected both a thriving local art scene and an interest in the natural environment (which includes Moreton Bay and the bay islands). This show made a large leap toward more conceptual and visually lively images, canvassing the variety found in Australian contemporary art, whilst still incorporating elements of the prize’s history.

Nature and the environment were present. Anita West’s meticulously painted leaves spilled down the picture plane in Leaf Cascade, calling to mind the visual poems Eugene Carchesio documented in Japan. Local landscape inspired Kathryn Blumke’s Mangrove, Womangroves, with images that morphed between mangrove botany and human anatomy.

The genesis of the new look prize as a succinct exhibition of contemporary art bodes well for the society’s ambition. It is to be hoped that other media (particularly photography and film) may be incorporated in future, and that the strong start to the new initiative is recognised and rewarded by stake holders and sponsors toward a really significant prize pool—the most important factor in pushing the prize forward.

Loongkoonan, Bush Tucker in Nyikina Country, 2006. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. Courtesy the artist and Indigenart, The Mossenson Galleries.