Australian Fine Artist

Archibald at the MPRG

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous (without prejudice)

The last excursion for the semester was to our local gallery the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. I am a member, not that makes much difference when going with the school, but it does give me a sense of belonging. MPRG is a nice gallery, it isn’t too large – so you can’t get lost in it, it is easy to get to and they hold exhibitions that you would think would only be held in very big city galleries.

Going there is also a chance for me to catch up with the Oakhill Gallery which is on the main road in front and to the left of the MPRG rose garden as you face it. I am a member there as well and am starting to exhibit my own work there when the opportunity arises. My hope is that people will do as I often do, and take the time to visit both whilst in the area. The big difference between the two is that most of the work at Oakhill is for sale so you can take something home with you if you like it!

Back to the MPRG exhibition…

I go into the Archibald with mixed feelings but hopefully a fairly open mind. Given that I do have my own taste in paintings and it really does come out at something like this.

After an initial first work done in a traditional manner, the paintings ran off in a modernist trend with graffiti style paintwork mixed with modernism and splashes of identifiable figurative work. Some of the colours used were more like you would see in a railway tunnel rather than a gallery, so really didn’t appeal to me at all.

I couldn’t identify some as portraits and to say the work had stretched the theme of the genre of portrait to breaking point is I think, putting it mildly. I know the Archibald is known for the controversy around it, and some would say that is part of the event. For me however, a portrait prize is about just that, portraits. The inclusion of a huge amount of clutter around an insignificant indication of what is supposed to be the subject, seems to be a way of totally avoiding having to paint an actual portrait.

Characatures (cartooning) for me are not portraits. Line drawings that are so vague that you can’t tell who or what you are looking at are not either. I may annoy some or you may agree with me, it really doesn’t matter, as this is just my opinion, and others are welcome to theirs.

What did I like in the gallery? As usual I like the winner of the Packer’s Prize. A sensual and beautiful painting of Tara Moss. I also liked the painting of Dr Catherine Hamlin, it had so much character in the face and the rendering of her blouse, the detail in her skirt and the rug she had on the chair were stunning – and still painterly. The Portrait of Ella was a lovely painting of a young girl without being typical of a child as she is shown deep in thought and there was as story in the painting.

Final Thoughts

There’s a line between realism and painterly impressionism that I like and am comfortable with. Too far one way or the other and it might get my attention for the skill level but not to engage with on any emotional level or in any kinship as an artist. That said, several works were of a style that invited me to have a second look and linger to soak in the beautiful way they were done and engage with the subject. Others went from not interesting to a few WTFs. I want to emphasise at this point that this is purely a personal opinion, valid or not.

By the way I purchased the book about the history of the Archibald Prize at MPRG whilst there, so further education for myself about this event is forthcoming!

Oakhill Gallery – The Little Archies

A few fellow students and artists that I know from the Peninsula area had work in this exhibition so I was keen to have a look. There were some stunning pieces in this exhibition that could so easily have hung in the MPRG and not been out of place.

My fellow students did a great job and the works was great. Tash had her self portrait there which was getting some positive remarks, as well as the portrait of Jon Hatfield by Livia Caulfield. The eyes in this one nearly followed you around the room and she totally captured Jon in her work.

Geoffrey had a lovely painting which was a stand out in the room he was hung in. My friend Margo Vigorito had a beautiful acrylic painting which looked more like oils in lovely muted colours, a bit different from her lively and vibrant use of colour but just as stunning.

My favourite from this exhibition was the Bush Poet by Vicki Sullivan. A very traditional portrait and beautifully done. I was surprised that I didn’t see an award next to this work, I thought it was a stand out brilliant painting.

I was so happy to see a lot of students coming over from the MPRG to Oakhill. The small gallery is mostly run by volunteers and has a shoestring budget so support from the community is really important.

Congratulations to all the students from TAFE who entered the Little Archies, you all did a great job and should be very proud of yourselves.

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