Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
29th Annual Wallace Art Awards 2020
The Wallace Arts Centre, Pah Homestead, Auckland
15 September – 15 November
The Wallace Arts Trust Paramount Award was last night awarded to Russ Flatt, for his photographic work Kōruru (knucklebones). The black and white image reference numerous images of a mother and child from the traditional Pieta to the works of Diane Arbus. The judges noted that: the work is “Haunting emotionality, an image which returns scrutiny of it with an increasing sense of tension… (the) mysterious narrative… draws in much collective meaning – a worthy winner. The artist said: “Kōruru / Knucklebones was pre-Nintendo Nintendo… centred around the joy of friendship and the connections you could make as young people playing games together… a way of finding your tribe through play”.
As winner of the Paramount Award Flatt received $52,000
Wallace Art Awards which are New Zealand’s richest annual art awards and this year had 634 entries: from which 74 artworks were selected by the judges who then select eight works to be granted Awards. With Covid 19 affecting travel this year the Arts Trust took the unprecedented step of offering cash equivalents for each of the residential awards.
The other award winners were:
The Second Award Winner Darryn George, Mara #26, ($22,000) a semi abstract work in which the rigid geometry of past works has morphed into more recognisable natural and architectural elements.
The judges note: A brave shift in this mid-career artist’s practice, this work is fresh and speaks strongly of ‘our time’. It is a work that grows in complexity the more you look at it, which is its strength. The artist writes: (My) series of artworks around the topic of ‘Innocence’… grew out of watching the news and having a sinking feeling about the brokenness and hurt that is an everyday reality. The vehicle or subject that came to mind was the Garden of Eden, a place of purity before the Fall and to convey this innocence, I decided to draw the garden in a childlike manner.
The Third Award Winner is Glen Hayward, At night at the museum, ($20,000), Paint on timber. The artist here continues his practice of creating facsimiles by carving and painting. Here he has made a copy of the golden coloured drinking fountain in the Guggenheim Museum. It is a technical masterpiece with even the drops of water being carefully replicated. The artist has also made obvious his intervention by not applying the same level of authenticity to the numerous cigarette butts stubbed out on the metal surface.
The judges note: A tour de force in illusionism where ‘carving’ and painting collude in a statement of fidelity that is made even more potent by the transposition of the ‘golden’ Guggenheim fountain defaced with cigarette butts. Glen Hayward is long overdue for an acknowledgement of his practice and his consummate craftsman hip. The artist writes: If I had the keys (to the Guggenheim) I would hang out at night and if I still drank and smoked, I would drink and smoke with the artworks. Blow smoke across their surfaces, breath my smoky breath in their faces. Bombast and lambast them for their failures and in the end clean out my butts and leave vowing to never not return again. It is a category of object that may hold out some hope; Art – for a lasting dissatisfaction. Aesthetics as resistance.
The Wallace Arts Trust Fourth Award Winner Martin Basher,($16,000) The untitled work is one of his trademark dramatically patterned, striped works.
The judges note: This is a painting with a striking presence. It harks back to geometric and neo-geo painting but dissolves the picture surface in a new and surprising way. The artist writes: I am starting to see this new work as way to draw an increasingly explicit environmental critique into the explorations of commodity fetishism and desire in retail display spaces that have long been a bedrock of my practice.
The Wallace Arts Trust Fifth Award Winner Sam Harrison, Self Portrait Torso, ($8000) The steel and ply structure is sculpted in plaster as well as blood. The life size works references sculptures , Rodin as well as more recent contemporary sculptors. Like Marc Quinn.
The judges note: This is a powerful work – the artist shows extreme skill and competence working with the human form. Skills not often seen in New Zealand artists. It shows traditional and anatomical finesse yet moves the work beyond skill into a potent self-portrait. The artist writes: For me, the deconstruction of the figure and the covering of blood are both approaches of breaking my formal approach to the figure.
First Runner-up Award Winner Virginia Leonard, Cripple, ($2500) This is a ceramic explosion an intense physicality obvious in the making as well as references to organic forms.
The artist writes: These works are self-portraits, large scale ceramic sculptures that stand in representations of the body. The forms are hand-built, precarious, threatening to fall over at any given moment, an intentional gesture that evokes the fragility of the body becoming undone.
Second Runner-up Award Winner Maryrose Crook, Herxing, ($2500). The artist writes: The concept of the sky and other aspects of each canvas flipping from negative to positive and the fact that the teetering top heavy dark world in the canvas above is a representation of the world below flipped over and still containing some aspects of the kingdom below but in distorted form, or in the case of Te Tarata almost engulfed by the sea of the unconscious, plays into the concept of the shadow world, which in Plato’s ‘Republic’ compares the human condition to that of prisoners in a cave, chained in such a way as to only see a blank wall on which the shadows of the outside world are cast.
Jury Award Winner Wanda Gillespie, A Counting Frame for Future Beings,($1000) The artist writes: The abacus has been a recurring theme in my work to date, and although in previous works it began as more of a mystical artefact (counting the immeasurable qualities of the spirit world), in the wake of Covid-19, my thoughts are drawn more on the economic systems we find ourselves inextricably a part of, their potential collapse and need for restructure as we re-think our direction for being an environmentally sustainable race with a social conscience.
The People’s Choice Award The award of $750 is announced at the end of the Award Winners and Travelling Finalists exhibition.
For the first time this year the Award judges were all prior Wallace Award Paramount Award winners: Sara Hughes (Paramount Award 2005), Bob Jahnke (Paramount Award 2019), Gregor Kregar (Paramount Award 2000), Jae Hoon Lee (Paramount Award 2013) and Judy Millar (Paramount Award 2002).
Exhibition dates The Award Winners and Travelling Finalists exhibition will be exhibited at: The Wallace Arts Centre, Pah Homestead Auckland 15 September – 15 November Pātaka Art+Museum Wellington 29 November 2020 – 28 February 2021 Wallace Gallery.