Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter Show 2015 - 26 March to 8 April

Okay folks, this is the big one.  The show you have been waiting for all year and it is only March.  The one, the only, the Easter Show!  As regular readers would know, apart from running the Big Lamington I am a bit of a prize winning baker and preserver.  And this year was no different with the Big Lamington team elbow deep in chutneys, relishes, jellies and jams all through art month.  It's a real relief to have finished all the cooking, cause then I actually get to go visit the show.  Now, I think I say this every year but it does deserve repeating for those that came in late.  The Easter Show is the oldest art prize in Australia.  The Show itself kicked off in 1823 and awarded its first art ribbons in 1869 (compared to the oldest AGNSW art prize, the Wynne, which kicked off in 1897).  It covers over 500 categories from traditional painting, through photography, to all the crafts and cooking arts. There are many thousands of entries but only a handful lucky enough to bag a coveted ribbon.  The show itself has finished for the year but lets take a look back at the highlights from my perspective ...

But before we really get going I should point out that the Easter Show has some serious art credentials this year.  Art world identity Alison Renwick has been a driving force on the arts & crafts committee for many years and it looks like she has recruited Evan Hughes of the Hughes gallery onto the committee.  They have lined up a great panel of judges including Carriageworks' Lisa Havileh (watercolours), Art months Glenn Barkley (rural subject and/or landscape), artist Lucy Culliton (australian birds / flowers), and dealer James Dorahy (marine / seascape).  Now did you notice how specific some of the categories are?  I just love it.  As well as the traditional, the Royal Agricultural Society has branched out and included digital art this year.  But not content with just saying "digital" they are very specific in their categories of vector art or raster art.  Yep, look them up!

Okay where to start?  Let's get the traditional out of the way.  The figurative section was a bit of a no-brainer in the Anzac centenary year.  Wayne Dowsett's Anzac portrait of Jack Hinde took the blue ribbon in that section and the special committee purple ribbon (pictured above).  Old Jack himself even turned up on the opening night in full kit.  Good work digger.  There was also a pretty decent portrait of Aussie Dick Smith that won 3rd prize.  Staying with figurative but moving onto animals we are at one of my favourties - Australian Birds and/or Flowers.  I really liked the winner here, Frank Hooke's Rainforest Encounter (pictured 2nd from top).  My only fault was Frank's failure to identify the species.  I mean, how do I know it is an Australian bird?  I mean it could be a damn New Zealand huia bird!  For those wondering the most popular bird, by my count it was a tie with 4 entries of Kookaburras and 4 entries of Lorikeets.  Hmmm, maybe I might try to crank out a black cockatoo next year!  Next up is the biggie.  Rural Subject and/or Landscape painting.  Remember Glenny B is judging this one so I am keen to see what he has selected.  And its a nice eclectic selection of winners.  The blue ribbon went to Michael Rogers' The Longest Cattle Trough which was quintessentially rural.  My favourite was probably Madelaine Batchelor's kitschy Easter Showtime (pictured top).  Now, I don't know if it is just because I know Glenn is judging this. And the fact that Glenn has got a soft spot for Noel McKenna. But, I am seeing a bit of Noel in this work.  Or at least it wouldn't look out of place in Noel's collection.

There were a few nice still life paintings, Robert Baird's At the table of Golgotha was a very traditional piece that won him a red ribbon (2nd place).  My notes on the watercolours are memorable for Meredith Cooper winning the blue ribbon for her Cathedral of Ferns.  But Meredith also came 2nd in the Drawing for a work with the same title.  Lucky for Meredith those sections had different judges.  The works are practically identical!  See above, the watercolour is on the left.  Did anyone else spot that?

Onto the photos and it was good to see Paul McMillan take the blue ribbon for best rural photo.  Paul is an old friend of the Big Lamington and a great guy.  I really liked the winner of the urban landscape, Vivienne Noble's And the Stack Came Down (pictured above) which was a great black and white action shot of the demolition of the Port Kembla landmark.  This post is already stretching the server capacity and I haven't even got to the crafts!  It was a relatively disappointing year for tea cosies but the crochet was outstanding.  I would've awarded the grand champion to the cacti arrangement (pictured below).  Sadly this one was NFS but you can often pick up a great souvenir here, we made off with a crochet hippo that won the blue ribbon in the small toy section.  That is on its way to my god-daughter, hopefully she'll be another fan of the Show.

Points:  So, so many to chose from. I am going to give 3 points to the one that nearly got away from Glenn, the Noel McKenna'esque Easter Showtime! 2 points will go to the bargain of the day, aka the prize winning photo of the 'Gong (that black and white photo of Port Kembla was only $53!). 1 point will go to the rainforest bird.

postscript.  this has already been a mammoth post given my usual standards, and we've shown a lot of images but I can't resist (for obvious reasons) one last image from the digital art section.  The Lamington Drive with a Lamington pretending to be pac-man.  Not only did I love it, the junior critics wanted me to download the game to their iPads!  If only kids, if only!

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