Art awards can be such a fascinating mélange of art, giving a wide insight into the range of currently produced artwork. They can also be fun as there are times when you have those 'go figure' moments in seeing the winners. There usually is the option to have your democratic say and put your vote in for a 'people’s choice' award.
The Edinburgh Art Awards, is no exception. With a prize pool of $8000 this is Dunedin’s biggest annual art award. Held in conjunction with the Otago Art Society it is open to South Island artists and Otago Art Society members, some of whom live in the North Island, for two-dimensional artwork.
Given the setting, it’s a little like stepping back in time to 18th century exhibitions where there’s so much art it’s almost a floor to ceiling visual onslaught. This year a record 247 entries were received, 209 of which were elected for the show. The calibre of artists is high with a number of the previous finalists in major awards. Most works available are for sale.
The quality of work on display is also of a consistently high level and Judge Peter Cleverly, a local artist/painter and retired Otago Art School teacher, had a formidable task. Kirsten Ferguson took first prize for her very painterly and colourful abstract expressionist 'Untitled'. A painting you could spend a good amount of time letting your imagination run wild over.
There’s some striking portraiture work in this exhibition along with some skilled landscapes. Joanna Dudson Scott’s 'Sub-Divide" alpine work is a blunt reminder of our tenuous hold on this land we live in. A number of works show mastery of painting such as that from Jasmine Middlebrook and Marie Reid.
When faced with an open range of local art such as this I am especially interested to see who is tapping into our societal psyche and which works connect with and build upon New Zealand’s cultural heritage - things that add to and develop our way of thinking. On this basis I found New Zealand visual language in both James Bellaney’s 'I Stand Strong in Flow’ and Christopher Flavell’s 'Kodachrome'.
All artists have something to say when they create. For me I am particularly drawn to the thought provoking. There is something in Manu Berry’s eerie 'Hoppers Flow' and I rather liked the little 'Vices' by Jenny Leyden. I found one of the more interesting pieces was Yonel Watene’s 'Real Friends' - it’s kind of sweet too. Go see what you like!