Could we paint ourselves out of a paper bag?
In a State better known for wood-chipping and pulping its natural landscape for paper it is refreshing to see visual artists being awarded $30,000 in prize money for creating landscape paintings of the Tasmanian environment.
Last years winner Raymond Arnold is a local Tasmanian artist whos entry "Western Mountain Ecology - the relationship between things rather than things themselves". Arnolds work was unconventional for a landscape as it presented a quiet corner of a timber yard in the west of Tasmania on a wet day, the focus of the painting being large solid stacks of reclaimed Huon pine.
Fellow Tasmanian David Keeling won the 2006 Glover Prize for a landscape of a nature walk area of Narawntapu National Park in northern Tasmania which examined the melancholy and beauty of the light and shadows in the natural environment.
Stephen Lees, an artist fron South Arm in southern Tasmania was awarded the 2005 Glover Prize for his work "Wishbone Ridge" which depicts from an elevated perspective the inhospitable, parched and unforgiving landscape of a windblated sandstone ridge with trees clinging for survival - a contrast to the lush green pastures of tourists brochures.
The winner of the inaugural Glover Prize for a Tasmanian Landscape Painting in 2004 was Michael McWilliams with his painting "Bandicoot on a Log" set in Ben Lomond from Fingal Valley. McWilliams showed a native bandicoot in the foreground and a fox (an introduced pest) in the background of a clear felled forest as a comment on mans destruction of the natural environment.
Tasmania has a unique an diverse natural environment which is sadly being undermined by the forrestry industry. The annual John Glover Art Prize is held at the Falls Park Pavillion in Evandale, Tasmania and draws attention to the value of the natural environment. This weekend from Friday 7th until Tuesday 11th March the painting of 43 finalists will be showcased including entries from all four previous winners in the running for the 2008 prize. Over half of the entries have been submitted by Tasmanians with other works coming from NSW, VIC, WA, SA, and even one from Romania, but all featuring the Tasmanian environment as a theme.
The Tasmanian environment has inspired artists for centuries. John Glover himself was a English landscape artist, the contemporary of Turner and Constable in the English Romantic era of landscape art history, who emigrated to Australia aged 63 during colonisation. John Glover (1767-1849) is widely regarded as the father of Australian landscape painting and the most important landscape painter working outside of Europe in the 1830s. He was the first professional artist to come to Australia and the first landscape painter to really capture the colour, the light, the contours of the Australian bush. He is widely recognised in the art community as the finest Australian landscape painter of the early colonial period.
Artists who enter works in the John Glover Prize often participate in other prestigious landscape art competitions held in Australia including the Wynn Prize and the Fleurieu Art Prize. The Wynn Prize is worth $20,000 and is held by the Art Gallery of NSW (famous for the Archibald Prize for portraits). The Fleurieu Art Prize is worth $50,000 and is held in Port Adelaide SA, it is regarded as the richest prize in landscape art in Australia.
I hope that all artist who are inspired by the environment in Tasmania take the opportunity to enter these competitions. Not just for a chance at the substantial prize money, but also to document the concerns and deterioration of the bush that once inspired John Glover. Glover's Australian paintings have proved to be important historical documents presenting images of an unspoiled Tasmanian bush, of traditional Tasmanian Indigenous culture and of the life of the settlers of the 1830s. The visual arts are a vital part of recording our culture.