Recently I entered two major Australian art prizes with coloured pencil drawings. In order to qualify one had to submit images of their work along with the usual written entry requirements that included an artist’s statement. A selection committee assesses the value of the work and selects an appropriate number which in turn are submitted for display and final judging. I failed to impress both committees with my entries. This isn’t the first time, but I can’t complain, having been selected on 3 occasions in two major Australian art prizes. Why bother?
I know that some of my friends who enter these awards get extremely upset when their work is rejected. Some take it very hard, others are more philosophical. Over the years I have reacted in both ways, but I have come to realise that it’s not a rejection; there simply was work considered better than yours entered. The more entries, the less chance one has. This can either kill your enthusiasm, or spur you on to try again, and again, and again.
I’m not a fan of art prizes that don’t see the finished, framed work at the selection stage. Seeing the real thing has to be a better way than printed or electronic images. I would also like to see that every entrant successful or not, receive a critique on their work. I know that this is a big ask, but I think it would greatly help artists, especially those whose work was rejected.
I entered two large drawings in this year’s Glover Art prize. One is titled “Hyland’s Flat 2116” – 92 x 132 cms, Coloured pencil on pastel board.
A century has passed since irrigation came to the Midlands region of Tasmania. For the previous 2 centuries farming was tough, the climate unforgiving and managing the land proved to be beyond the patience of many.
Hyland’s Flat, just south of Conara, has been farmed since the early 1800s. This near-barren wasteland scarred by sheep trails, where the only long-term survivors are a group of pine trees that have stood defiant since their planting in the first half of the twentieth century. This area of land has always been a challenging farming proposition.
The introduction of an irrigation scheme in 2015 brought a complete change in land management and in farming methods. Water, that most precious natural commodity was now available in abundance! This has resulted in all manner of crops being planted, many alien to the Conara region.
The years that followed saw continual cycles of success and failure as farmers sought to find crops that were economically viable in a climate that was noticeably warming. The land became a circus of trial and error, as crop after crop was planted in the quest for economic sustainability. The result? One can only speculate.
Should we seek to ‘tame’ the landscape, however barren and ‘unproductive’ it’s perceived to be, in search of an economic windfall?
What will the resulting impact of new crops and farming methods be on such a landscape?
The once straw-coloured land has now become a carnival of cameo colours, shapes and mark making. Is this resulting agricultural quilt simply farming folly, or the beginnings of a brave new Tasmanian landscape?