9 September 2023

'Quality stands out' as annual art prize sets record

| Claire Sams
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Braidwood’s Freya Job took home the top prize in 2022 with her pieces Lightning Strike and Firestorm. Photo: River of Art Festival.

A record number of entries in an annual art competition have been whittled down to a list of finalists, as the opening date of the competition’s exhibition draws closer.

Chair of River of Art Inc. Leanne Joyce said entries in this year’s River of Art Prize were submitted by artists living in the Eurobodalla Shire, as well as far-flung places such as Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne.

“We’ve got a record number of entries, and a large number of finalists to be displayed, but it’s the quality of the work and the diversity that stands out,” she said.

“They all tell so many stories about people’s identity and people’s memories, but particularly their environment.”

Works including wearable items, oil paintings and a cardboard platypus are among those that have been included on the list of finalists.

The 32 finalists were handpicked by two judges – executive director of South East Arts Andrew Gray and curator Helen Maxwellahead of the next round of judging.

“We de-identify the works so that they don’t have names attached or any indicators of who they might be by,” Ms Joyce said.

“All the judges have is an image of the work, a description and the title.”

The winners will be announced at the exhibition and festival launch on 15 September.

There is also a people’s choice award, which will be announced at the end of the River of Art Festival.

“We’re delighted that we have independent expert judges who have that role, because I think it’d be a very hard job,” she said.

“The judges will come by and see the works in real life in September to make a final judgement on the winners.”

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As the exhibition opening draws closer, the public can get a sneak peek of the finalists’ works online via the festival’s website.

The 32 finalists were drawn from 67 entries, an increase on the 53 entries from 41 artists who entered in 2022.

Ms Joyce believed the widespread appeal of River of Art Prize was due to the strong reputation of the River of Art Festival.

“Our view is anyone who wants to enter is very welcome,” Ms Joyce said.

“The fact people are hearing about it and participating from a distance is very exciting.

“We’re pleased with the wonderful quality of talented artists in our area, but we’re also delighted that people from other regions are participating.”

In 2023, the prize money has increased to $3500 for the winner, $1500 for the runner-up and $500 for a highly commended artwork.

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The competition is part of the wider River of Art Festival, to be held from 15 to 24 September.

The 10-day festival also includes other art exhibitions, open studios from Eurobodalla artists, workshops, performances and more.

Ms Joyce said the winners of the River of Art Prize would take home more than bragging rights.

“Once they’ve won it, it gives them confidence to pursue an artistic career,” Ms Joyce said.

“It also helps to encourage them to take up a longer-term career in the arts.”

Free tickets for the River of Art Prize exhibition, opening on 15 September, are available online via Humanitix.

The opening will be held from 5 to 7 pm at Bay Pavilions, 12 Vesper Street, Batemans Bay.

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