A Little Birdie Told Me

Artist Critique, Artwork Crtique, Commentary, Exhibition Critiques, Exhibitions, Uncategorized

This week at the Malvern Art Society gallery

1297-1299 High Street, Malvern. Victoria

Rhonda Owen

It was my pleasure last night to attend the opening of Rhonda Owen’s solo exhibition at the Malvern Art Society gallery. Rhonda has a lifelong passion for all things feathers and furred, which is obvious in her beautifully detailed paintings.

Rhonda draws her inspiration from her photography and en plein air sketches of wildlife and domestic animals from around the world. As I spoke with her, she described how she uses her images for inspiration to create artworks with unique compositions by taking only the idea and rearranging her animals to reflect their characters and personalities. As an emerging artist, it is not always obvious to see a clear style, but this is not the case with Rhonda’s work. She has definitely indicated in this prolific exhibit of paintings that she is on track to an identifiable look that engages viewers. On close inspection of her work, another important aspect is the care she takes to ensure that the anatomy and features of every creature is correct to the smallest detail, which if you know a lot about a particular animal, makes her work so much more appealing.

Rhonda’s exhibition is only on this weekend, May 27th to 29th 2022, so I urge animal and art lovers to attend to check out, and purchase a piece to enhance your home or office. Artworks like these also make wonderful gifts if you know someone who has a passion for the world’s wild animals.

The Archibalds in context

Exhibition Critiques

As a practising painter, and art teacher I am usually conflicted, sometimes confused, and occasionally repulsed when it comes to the finalists in Archibald Prize.

What criteria is used for judging I have asked, especially when I often prefer the Packer’s Prize winner. Sometimes I think it is of more importance to create a sensation, cause some argument amongst art critics, or sensation in the public sphere in preference to selecting a painting on its merit.

Of course, the narrative and artist’s intentions are important, as is the context in which the artwork is created, but that isn’t the whole story in visual art is it? My belief is that these should all be additional considerations to the technical expertise exhibited in the artwork, and how well that engages the viewer.

With these thoughts in mind, I turn my attention to the 2021 Archibalds. This year, to my surprise, I have a liking for both the Packer’s Prize and winner of the Archibald, with a couple of reservations.

First, what i like, is that both portray the sitter in a manner that reflects individual character and personality. You can’t say that Guy Warren has any similar characteristics to Kate Ceberano, and the styles of painting are individual and enticing for an artist. The colours used in the skin for both, in particular, form a texture that draws the viewer in to investigate further, and how these are so differently applied adds to the character of the sitter.

What seems to be in fashion at the moment, and I am not keen on, is the use of a solid black or coloured background. Whilst this draws the attention to the sitter, it fails to add context to who they are, what they do, the times they live in, and the circumstances around the painting of the portrait for the painter.

What I have seen in winning paintings in the past, that I thought were technically inferior, that was successful, was placing the subject into a space that reflected more about them. These little hints have been used in portrait painting for generations, and need not take up a large amount of the work, but given several years for memories of individuals to fade, are important clues for future viewers. I personally look for these cues to help me to build a narrative around a painting, and entice me to wander off and find out more about the person portrayed.

So, in conclusion, in contrast to previous years, where for me, confusion, and sometimes revulsion reigned supreme, this year I can say that the judges have made interesting and good decisions from my perspective in the studio. I am interested to hear what others may have to say.