Artists ‘In Conversation’ at the Art Gallery of Ballarat


( Blind continuous line drawing of Prudence Flint and Fiona Watson in conversation drawn by me )

The Archibald Prize has made it’s way to Ballarat and there have been many events in and around this exhibition. I must admit that I am not one for openings and parties, however I have enjoyed the In Conversation series that has featured artists Juan Ford, Carla Fletcher and Prudence Flint. I think this was a really fantastic thing to do as bringing artists to the gallery to have a chat about their works within the prize as well as their overall careers and practices makes exhibitions relevant.

The audiences were made up of locals, artists and visitors – I garnered this from the Q & A sessions at the end of each conversation.

Exhibitions that are created around a prize are so interesting – sometimes they are not very good, sometimes they are mind blowing and often they are a mix of the two. The Archibald is no stranger to controversy and criticism. I often hear artists scoff that it isn’t a ‘real’ portrait prize ( I didn’t have the courage to ask what that actually meant – I mean, it’s not like there’s a fake portrait prize? ) But I think it is exciting, there are so many people I admire or studied with that are often shortlisted. These prizes really help artists but also, and possibly most importantly, it’s an exhibition that gets people from all walks talking about art.

Each artist talked about their own piece in the prize, all three works are so very different within subject and style. I enjoyed hearing their reflections on painting as a practice, and learning that Carla’s piece is a collage. There was talk about the ‘rules’ for works that are submitted to the prize. The court case that occurred in 2004 when an artist sued the Art Gallery of NSW over a winning portrait being a ‘drawing’ and not a ‘painting’ was mentioned and this got people musing about what is painting and what would constitute a painting within the context of the Archibald and does that even matter? What relationship does photography have to painting? How to keep painting relevant in this day and age.

It was interesting to hear them all talk about their studios. Juan likened his to a science lab; he has two areas – one that is messy and the other that is clean. Carla referred to her practice as being a bit ‘witchy’ and Prudence talked about the whole process being rather mysterious. She has a couch in her studio so she can sit there and knit and problem solve. I love that, I think I will get a nice comfy chair for my new studio because that sounds right to me; The idea of giving yourself a chance to step back from actively making, but still being amongst your work and giving you time to problem solve. Try and create more of an objective space, if one can!

I feel invigorated and really inspired after these talks. All the artists were very generous and had a lot of interesting things to say. It’s made me reflect on my own practice as well and made me realise a few things that I think will keep me going for a good long while.

Here are the websites of the artists mentioned, just click on their names:
Juan Ford
Carla Fletcher
Prudence Flint

Here is an article about the court case I referred too :
A brush with controversy By Carolyn Webb

The Archibald is on for another two weeks at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, information is here:
Archibald 2015