And the Border Art Prize goes to…

Our very own annual regional art prize has been awarded again and this year it was Tweed Regional Art Gallery’s turn to host the prize. Robyn Sweaney, a Mullumbimby based artist took the top prize with her work Oasis.

Art Border Prize is a joint initiative of Gold Coast City Art Gallery and Tweed Regional Gallery and is aimed to promote art in the South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales. The prize is open to 2D and 3D artworks and has no stipulation on subject matter.

“The [Border Art Prize] exhibition comprises a wide variety of styles and media from both well-known and emerging artists, one of whom is only eight years old!” Tweed Regional Gallery director Susi Muddiman said.

“You’ll see painting, photography, textiles, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics and more. It is truly a celebration of the wealth and breadth of artistic endeavor in the region.”

This prize is a chance for the artists in the area to exhibit their work in the region’s public galleries. It is a rare opportunity for work of any medium to be entered and exhibited.  And for two regional galleries to share the resources and the huge undertaking of administering and coordinating a project of this scale, the shared prize ensures an annual exhibition for the artists, the galleries and the public alike.

This year’s prize was judged by artist Euan Macleod. He is a New Zealand born, Sydney based artist with a prolific career expanding over 30 years. Amongst other achievements he has an Archibald Prize under his belt and artworks included in such collections as National Gallery of Australia, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Centre of Contemporary Art in Christchurch.

This is what he had to say about his decision and Robyn Sweaney’s winning piece: “Like the 3rd and 2nd prizes, this work is beautifully painted, but in a slightly detached, mechanical way that relates to the subject matter. We’re confronted by a façade, which suggests concealment, but implies so much more. It has, for me, an eerie, otherworldly quality. A fabulous painting.”

Susi Muddiman has been a supporter and an admirer of Robyn Sweaney for a while now.

“I love the work and have admired Robyn’s practice for many years, and enjoyed seeing it evolve,” says Ms Muddiman.

“Her recent exhibition in Sydney at Arthouse Gallery was excellent. The Tweed Regional Gallery has a number of works by this artist in our collection, and I am aware that the artist is also represented in the collection of the Gold Coast City Gallery.”

Robyn Sweaney described her work and practice.

“The subject matter of my realist paintings is generally sourced from my immediate environment: the home and garden, and the rural, vernacular landscape. In my art practice I am trying to capture a moment in time that is actually now, that has an essence of the familiar, yet sometimes overlooked Australian landscape.”

“The often stage-like quality of my paintings can lend them either romantic or oppressive qualities, depending on one’s experience. The phenomenon of light and how it hits the flatness of built forms in the landscape creates a sense of drama and contrast. I aim to create a sense of the power of the life lived within the simple home that is situated and often overlooked by the roadside. The painting Oasis is based on a house in the coastal town of Ballina in northern NSW.”

Robyn Sweaney is an artist with strong connection to her region and her environment. She loves living and being an artist in Mullumbimby with all it has to offer from the vibrant artistic community to its rural charm and liveliness.

“The only downside is that it has been a little harder over the years making connections in the art world and I do need to make an effort to get to the city and travel to other exhibition openings to keep in touch with people and what is going on,” said Ms Sweaney.

The Border Art Prize brings those opportunities and connections a little bit closer to home.

The exhibition is filled with worthy and magnificent artwork but it would be a shame not to bring out another piece. Zom Osborne’s Swan Sisters took second prize and portrays two pre-adolescent girls circled by three black swans in a landscape of mist and water.

“I am interested in questions about our relationship, as part of the industrialised first world, with wild animals. We fear them, idolise and romanticise them – but few of us have any kind of relationship with them.”

From realism from down the road to realism to true, yet unfortunate, fact of modern life.

The subject matters put aside, the Border Art Prize leaves you with a warm feeling of unity, shared love for the arts and the region without a border in between and a whole lot of pride for the talent and passion.

The Border Art Prize 2016 is on exhibition from 6 May to 10 July at Tweed Regional Gallery.

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