Sunday, August 16, 2009

Exhibition Reflection 2

As the artworks are being taken down from the first exhibition (see earlier post), others are being put up elsewhere. Earlier this year, I participated in a youth art class organized by the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA). The Class occurred over 2 days, being led by local artist Trevor Newman. The subject of the class was self portraiture.

The first day began with introductions and a viewing of artworks from the AGSA’s permanent collection. Images by prominent Australian artists such as Mike Parr and Ivor Hele were shown among a diverse collection of artist’s styles. Trevor Newman gave a short lecture on the significance and practice of self portraiture and demonstrated some practical art skills. Students returned to their easels, brimming with inspiration and ideas, sheets of paper and charcoal in hand. Each student had a mirror to draw from and a supply of art materials.

Students then began to draw their appearance. My first portrait was done on toned paper with red conte. My intention was for an accurate likeness. I first began by drawing the shape of my head, then massing in the tone and form of the face. The face was separated into roughly 5 tones, the paper tone, white conte, soft red tone, hard red tone and black charcoal. As the likeness emerged, I received comments from instructor Trevor Newman. He was pleased with the emerging likeness and had some advice for getting the tones accurately. As I completed this first portrait, Trevor approached me and instructed me to create another self portrait, this time less concerned with my “bread and butter” traditional approach.
I got new sheets of paper, another colour of conte and began my second drawing. I drew quicker, spontaneously, not concerned with absolute realism. I redrew my head from other angles, giving the impression of movement. I created a third drawing in a similar matter.

The following day Trevor gave an evaluation on the progress of students. Each student was approaching the subject differently. Some drew with soft delicate lines, others drew with force and dynamism, others simplified and some exaggerated. The magnitude of different styles and skills was overwhelming. Trevor was pleased with the progress of my drawings and had succeeded in getting me “out of my comfort zone” and into unknown territory. His persistence and energy for me to branch out and attack the subject anew gave me confidence and vigor.
I completed another self portrait, using the first traditionalist drawings as a prop against the mirror at a skewed angle, to redraw the portrait from a new angle, not using my face as the reference, but using the drawing of my face as reference.
This was conceived as an experiment after having seen Mike Parr explain his process for drawing images such as this image below
Mike Parr
at the Summer Art Scholarship earlier this year.

I created 2 quick drawings in this manner. The second day had concluded and Trevor gave a finishing speech. He was pleased with the progress of all the students and interested in my future plans as an artist.

This experience was rewarding and enjoyable. I felt I was challenged as an artist and that the outcomes of my drawings were successful. I had gained a contact in Trevor Newman and interacted with students my age with a similar interest in drawing.

On Friday the Fourteenth of August, the works of participating students were hung in Carclew Youth Arts Centre. The exhibition was in a large room, and the drawings were all mounted and hung close together. The room was packed with the students and their parents. My artwork was hung as a series of three, the traditionalist drawing on the end and the looser drawings beside it. Although I had outlined the hanging order ( which image next to each image), the images were hung according to colour choice( Red, Blue Red), I had originally intended the realist drawing to be in the middle.

Speeches began at 8pm by Mark Fisher, head of the education department at AGSA who welcomed those attending. He gave a brief overview of the self portraiture course then began to award prizes for participants. The exhibition was a joint exhibition with a life drawing class, and the figure prizes were announced. Mark then announced the winner of the Self Portrait class.

Mark called my name and I accepted the prize to my nervous horror. I accepted the prize (I received the book- LETS FACE IT: THE HISTORY OF THE ARCHIBALD PRIZE, the 2009 Archibald Prize catalogue, a certificate and a gift voucher to the AGSA bookshop) and stopped to have photographs taken. I have an ambivalent attitude to art exhibitions having some element of contest, of winners and losers. On one side, it is fantastic to be rewarded on artistic achievements and hard work, but on another side it can be devastating not winning. Also when it comes to judging artworks, bias is always inherent, and judges often make puzzling decisions.

After I was awarded the prize I was approached by a number of people asking about my intent with the images and future plans regarding art. The experience had similarities to my earlier exhibition (see earlier post). Interacting with strangers who ask very direct personal, probing questions is sometimes difficult. Although I do not feel entirely self conscious, I find myself anxious projecting myself to people I do not know.

The experience was largely pleasant, the artworks were all hung well and the exhibiting space had good light. I received a number of warm compliments and congratulations from people which was nice. Having my artwork hung in a group context was good to see the range of different styles. The experience was a lot of fun and made me feel engaged in the local art world.

No comments: