A brief critique at this year’s open visual art exhibition
Frankston Art Centre is situated in South Frankston next door to the live theatre complex. It has been involved in higlighting the work of local artists for several years with the open exhibition being the event that enables emerging and mid-career artists to bring their work to the public.
The open exhibition invites local painters, mixed media, sculptors, photographers and video artists to created a work based on a particular theme with the winner being awarded a cash prize and opportunity to hold a solo exhibition in the following year.
This year the winning piece was a photograph, based on the theme of ‘belonging’. This broad topic allowed for a broad interpretation by the entrants, which resulted in a huge variety of mediums and subjects. Belonging, as I saw t as a visual artist, related to human belonging to the land, the history of our belonging, both the original custodians and the more recent residents since colonisation, and the environment’s relationship with the animals and dangers that accompany living in the Australian bush.
The belonging and displacement of both humans and animals within the context of the Australian landscape, with the ever-present danger of bushfire, over time, was a challenging topic, as painting is a static medium. So how does an artist represent time in paint? For me, that was overcome by using the style of painting used during the Impressionist period of the last 1800s, and moving to the colurs and styles of contemporary painting as the viewer moved from right to left in a 183cm wide painting. As the totem of the original peoples flew away, fire, the common fear, took the viewer to the present, with hints of new settlers, and the ever-present birds and wallaby reminding us of their resilience. The painting is one that invites discussion about who belongs, how we belong, and with whom we share the land.
Unfortunately, my painting did not win this year, the award going to a local photographer, whose photograph of him and his dog, was the winner. The image was well portrayed, and warming, as this relationship between animal and human was clearly and emotively depicted.
The opening of the exhibition, where the winner was announced, was a well-attended event, with the Mayor of Frankston presenting the award to the winner. I had a chance to have a chat to the mayor, and found him to be a friendly, approachable and engaged person, who is genuinely interested in the development of the arts in the area. Not just there for a photo op. he got around and chatted to many in the audience for more than just a hello, and was eager to talk about the various works in the exhibition.
The judge was not present, which was a shame, as it is always of interest to entrants to understand the criteria by which the art has been judged, and the merits of the winner according to that judge and explained by them. For example, I would have liked to discuss their views on the future of painting, for example, in comparison to video or digital computer created images. This was a topic that I was, however, able to talk about with entrants this year, discovering that photography and video have been selected as winners for the last several years, which, allowing for the percentage of digital works in comparison to paintings and sculptures, makes me question the place of traditional mediums, like painting, in public exhibitions going forward. Sadly, as a painter, my conclusion in reference to entering them in the future, is one of pessimism and wariness. I will be checking more thoroughly the recent winners, most commonly used media, and judges, to analyse trends and preferences, so that my work will not be out of place in regard to materials and mediums.
If you would like to see the various artworks for yourself, the FAC Cube 37 exhibition is on until August 25th, and the gallery is open from 10am-5pm Tuesday to Friday and 9am-2pm Saturdays. A lot are avilable to purchase, including my own work, and I am sure your support will be welcomed by artists who have been severely hit by the recent COVID pandemic.
Finally, even if you do not buy an artwork, this year a people’s choice award has been added, so I invite you to go along to vote for your favorite piece. You may help a local artist to be able to attend the theatre for the night’s outing.