Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Archibald, Wynne and Sulman at AGNSW - 27 April

I actually checked this out with the whole family back on its first weekend. But if you have ever taken three kids aged three and under to the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman then you will be able to appreciate how fleeting that first visit was. The kids saw some stuff they liked and then were off and racing. Which is why I am back at the AGNSW in my lunchbreak forking out another ten bones to see this gig.

Which is just as well because at last the requisite controversy has erupted courtesy of Richard Bell (contemporary aboriginal artist and guest judge of this years Sulman). I actually thought the awards were all handed out by the trustees so at least it has also educated a lot of people to how the comps work. Here is the scandel here, but the gist of it is that Richard Bell narrowed it down to some works chosen fairly haphazardly, wrote those down on scraps of paper, laid them out on a table and then tossed a coin. Wherever it landed - winner! I am fine with this, it does highlight how subjective all these prizes really are, and long time readers (all 3 of you) will know I am a believer of Bell's Theorem which is that aboriginal art is a white mans thing. Now the eventual winner of the Sulman, Peter Smeeth, has come out and complained that this cheapens his win. Not in my opinion - it is a great story, and also explains why this fairly ordinary work won the chockies. And I know you won't believe me now but had I posted on the 16th I would have said the Sulman was the weakest winner this year!

Enough of the scandal, on to the rest of the show. I really liked Michael Lindeman's Archibald entry - great combo of his classic text work and a portrait to boot. I also liked Del Kathryn Barton's - again a very recognisable style but am not sure Cate Blanchett was that recognizable in it (my wife, a big fan of celebrity spotting didn't even pick who it was meant to be). Not sure I would've given it to Quilty. I think his Moran winner was better (and what is with SMH critic John McDonald calling him young and fashionable? he is older than me!). The portrait subject figured large in my assessments so I found myself liking Geoff Dyer's David Walsh (I heart Mona) and disliking works like Lucy Culliton's Ray Hughes.

Onto the Wynne which comprises landscape and sculpture. Given the small painting won last year it was the turn of a really big ordinary sculpture to win this year. I didn't care for the motorbike on the back of the rickshaw. I was glad to see Nell get a guernsey for one of her sculptures and I did chuckle when I saw Graham Fransella had won the Trustees watercolour prize again (this must be like an annuity for him, hardly anyone enters any watercolours so he picks up this mini prize, awarded out of the Wynne field but just to the best watercolour - he has won it 5 times now, including four out of the last five). I liked Kate Shaw's entry and I hope she wins this one day as landscapes are really her thing but I don't think a triptych will do it (I think this one is yours for $11k but like most triptychs I would prefer just a single panel - I think she should just go all out with a big single frame next year).

Points, I'll give one to each category. 3 for Ken Yonetani's salt frame in the Sulman. I think it is a shame it is hanging outside the ticketed area as most punters will walk straight past this. They also got the 3 points for their blog entry explaining that they were cool with how the Sulman was judged. 2 for Lindeman's portrait - I am sure Richard Bell would agree with me voting for someone in the Big Lamington collection. 1 point for Kate Shaw, probably the only Wynne I would've wanted in my pool room.

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