Thursday, April 19, 2012

Please exit through the Sulman - 19 April

I guess it must be that competitive Australian nature but I do like a good art prize.  So with just one of the junior critics in tow the Big Lamington team was off to check out this years Archibald, Wynne and of course Sulman Prizes ...

The Archibald gets all the headlines but usually disappoints, and this year was no exception - I hated the winner (but then again I don't really like much of his stuff so we'll move on).  I quite liked the idea behind Luke Robert's portrait of Richard Bell.  He has done it as a coin with Bells head in profile on the obverse (that is the 'heads' side obviously!).  I've seen something similar from photographer Darren Siwes in the not too distant past and I reckon his version was a little better.  Currency featured in some other highlights, my 4 year old listing Martin Sharp's 1000 dollar bill of David Gulpilil as her top pick (she was lucky that this was one of the few postcards carried by the gift shop).  I really liked Reko Rennie's portrait of Hetti Perkins.  He has done a single colour on raw linen and made it look like a stencil (I thought it was until reading his little spiel which implies it is freehand).  I am not sure I approve of portraits of AGNSW trustees given they are judging the comp so I would have sent Kate Beynon's portrait of Lindy Lee up to the Salon des Refuses.

Next up was Wynne, which I have a real soft spot for - just the name conjures up that classic 'Across the Blacksoil Plains'.  Stepping into the back room my first thought was that I had been transported to deepest darkest Zetland as it was a Sullivan and Strumpfest back there: Juan Ford, check; Kate Shaw, check; Michael Lindeman, check.  Just as I am sure a Kate Shaw will adorn a wall of mine one day I believe she will win the Wynne eventually.  I guess the trustees, like myself, are just waiting for the right one to come along.   I liked Louis Pratt's wavy sculpture but did think he picked the wrong year to enter.  Since 2008 the Wynne has gone painting, sculpture, painting, sculpture so the conspiracy theorist in me thought a painting was a good bet for 2012.  I was right.  Imants Tiller's Waterfall took the chockies this year.  It was my favourite winner of the three separate prizes but my top Wynne pick was Lindeman, whose 'attractive painting of Bega' got my attention.  I haven't called the mobile phone number listed in the painting ... yet, but would encourage all to give it a try as last year it was actually his real number.  I also love the combination of the text with the referenced image above. Strangely enough that is the exact combo I have running in my dining room, so who says familiarity breeds contempt?

Finally the Sulman, which is always a mixed bag.  My picks here included Kathrin Longhurst's Grenade Girl, but then again I have a fondness for retro kitsch (she has painted it in that communist realist style) and will always look twice at a half dressed girl with a hand grenade; Angus McDonald's bull (with sash!) and Pamela (could that be Bundle?) Horsley's Out at Tidbinbilla (I thought at first that a nutjob objector had actually attacked the work and hence the surveillance note plastered in the top right but then I read the blurb!).  My Sulman would've gone to Paul Ryan's Welcome to Wollongong (pictured) which was accompanied by the best artist statement of the day: "Governor Arthur Phillip arrives in Wollongong. For his first visit he comes as a black-and-white minstrel. Those Wollongong natives, they love a good joke. Strangely nobody seems to be laughing. This work asks questions. It does not provide answers."  Points coming for this guy.  It did also remind me a bit of Daniel Boyd's pirate first fleeters which is an all time favourite.

Points.  I will give the 3 to the Wynne this year and that means Michael Lindeman.  He deserves a big call out as in the last three years he has gone 2010 Sulman (winner), 2011 Archibald (finalist) and now 2012 Wynne (finalist). That is pretty impressive.  2 points will go to Reko Rennie for his Archibald (although I guess that means his already unaffordable stencils won't be getting any cheaper!) and 1 point will go to Paul Ryan for the beautiful randomness of Welcome to The Gong.

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