Central West landscapes are easy to identify in the 2011 Countryscapes Essential Energy Art Prize for Landscape Painting, on now at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery.
The scenes of local streetscapes, lakes, trees, mountains and paddocks sit proudly alongside coastal and outback images.
Now in its ninth year, the $35,000 Countryscapes is Australia’s richest prize for landscape painting. It’s open only to artists living in regional New South Wales, and 13 artists from the Central West area were finalists in this year’s award.
The 2011 winner, announced at the opening of the exhibition on November 24, is Brunswick Heads artist David Kas for his work ‘White Mountain’.
For the first time the $5000 Youth Encouragement Award was a tie, with the prize being split between two locals: Joel Tonks, 19, from Orange and Tom Buckland, 23, from Oberon.
Joel Tonks is currently studying a BA Creative Arts (Visual Arts) at Wollongong University. He said his inclusion in the list of finalists came as a surprise.
“I didn’t expect to be a finalist. I just entered to try my luck,” he said.
“When I got a letter in the mail I’d assumed it was a rejection letter.
“Being a finalist is a great honour, just to be hung with some of these great artists.”
Tonk’s painting ‘The Visitor’ captures Orange’s Lake Canobolas in autumn.
“Having grown up in Orange you get to experience the extremes of the area’s very distinct seasons and the dramatic changes in colour,” Mr Tonks said.
Fellow Youth Encouragement Award winner Tom Buckland has been studying fine arts at Orange TAFE and is next year off to ANU to further his study of art. His focus is mostly sculpture and work made with recycled objects but he gave the Countryscapes prize a go anyway. His highly textured work ‘Last Stop: This Town’ was made with acrylic paint, sand, shellac, recycled cardboard and mixed media.
Tom Buckland says the inspiration for his work comes from “watching the sun set over a charred, dry and cracking river bed.”
The 2011 overall judge was Sydney painter and academic Ian Grant, past Head of Painting Studies at the University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts and a founding member of the Imaging the Land International Research Institute.
Mr Grant spoke at the opening of the high standard of work in the exhibition and the difficult process of being a judge.
“It took a lot of time to arrive at a final decision. It took me a number of visits to a various works to see what those works were capable of giving,” he said.
Mr Grant said that Countryscapes is an important prize for artists.
“We as a nation have a tradition of imaging land. Of imaging country scape, if you like,” he said.
“It’s no secret that imaging land is very, very important to Australian art.”
Mr Grant said David Kas’s winning work captured his attention because it had a strong presence with a hypnotic and mystic linear patterning.
“The more I came back to the work, the more engaged I became with it,” Mr Grant said. “It’s quite unique.”
Mr Grant also recognised four other works with Highly Commended awards “reflecting the high quality and diversity of the finalists’ works”.
Ben Hamilton, Essential Energy Head of Corporate Strategy and Communications, said his organisation’s involvement in the exhibition and awards was something they took seriously.
“It’s just something we like doing… it’s part of Essential Energy’s wish to put back into local communities. And I can think of no better way to do that to support regional artists.”
Over nine years, more than 3800 artists have entered the competition. It has been won four times by an artist from the Central West with Joanna Logue and Graham Lupp, local artists and previous winners, among the crowd at the opening. This year’s exhibition features 59 artworks by 56 regional NSW artists.
Local artists featured in the exhibition are Tom Buckland (Oberon), Genevieve Carroll (Hill End), Isabel Fox (Bathurst), Catherine Hale (Bathurst), Royston Harpur (Mudgee), David Lake (Newbridge), Graham Lupp (Bathurst), Peter H Marshall (Rockely), Rowan Matthews (Mudgee), Gill Pedrana (Dubbo), Amanda Penrose Hart (Sofala), Michael Ramsden (Hill End) and Joel Tonks (Orange).
The Countryscapes 2011 finalists will be exhibited at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery until January 15, 2012.
Other exhibitions currently at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery are images of Hill End by Joanna Logue (the 2006 Countryscapes winner) and Anna Kristensen’s 360 degree painting of the Indian Chamber at Jenolan Caves. The gallery is also showing a selection of pieces from their own collection of important Australian landscapes.
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm and Sundays 11am-2pm. It is closed Mondays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.