UNE School Art Prize extends its reach

Published 10 September 2009

elanor-beckWhile those who couldn’t attend watched on YouTube, more than 300 school students and art-lovers from across the State gathered in Armidale last Friday evening for the award ceremony of the fifth annual University of New England School Acquisitive Art Prize (UNESAP).

The Art Prize is an educational outreach initiative of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, and engages with schools in regional and remote areas to encourage and nurture young artists.  This year, the University received more than 600 entries. The award ceremony took place at the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM), and accompanied the opening of an exhibition of the finalists’ works titled “Let’s Hang It!”. The prize-winning entries are incorporated permanently into the UNE Art Collection.

UNE’s Vice-Chancellor and CEO, Professor Alan Pettigrew, spoke at the exhibition’s opening about the “evident talent of young people” living in regional and rural Australia, and praised the 600 young contributors for the “absolute quality and true ingenuity” of their works.  He spoke of the importance of nurturing the talents of young people – particularly in rural and regional areas – and thanked all University staff for their efforts in that regard.

Professor Pettigrew also praised Dr Frances Alter, the founder of the exhibition, for the project’s continued success.

This year’s Art Prize winners were selected by a panel of experts led by the guest judge – local artist Kerry Gulliver. “This was my first experience of judging the UNE school acquisitive art prize,” Ms Gulliver said, “and I was very honoured to be asked. Many wonderful works were submitted, and of course it was very hard to choose eight winners in the end.”

Mrs Ann Pettigrew presented Certificates of Distinction to the finalists, and cheques to each of the eight prize winners, including Duval High School Year 12 student Anne De La Motte for her photo from the Series Journey, and NEGS Year 9 student Jessica Serov for her painting titled “Introspection”.

The Chancellor of UNE, Dr Richard Torbay, addressing the crowd, commended the young artists, and reemphasised the importance of nurturing the talents and skills of young people in rural and regional areas.

“The people in the community responsible for young people – including teachers and families – play a critical role in promoting the talents of young rural people and the future of our society,” Dr Torbay said. “This exhibition is important because it provides young people with the opportunity to showcase their artistic talents and creativity on a larger scale, reaching beyond their immediate homes, schools, and local communities.

“That we have seen an extension in the geographic reach of all the schools who submitted art entries – from the northern fringes of Sydney to the border of Queensland, and from Newcastle to Moree – is demonstrative of the project’s success. This is great work.”

Dr Alter thanked the organising team at UNE, including Dr Terrence Hays, Michelle Arens, Sue Johns, and Dr Lynn Everett.  She praised NERAM for “getting the exhibition hung so beautifully”, and expressed her gratitude on behalf of UNE to university art supplier S&S Creativity Unlimited for their generous sponsorship and financial support.

In particular, Dr Alter thanked the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions, Professor Victor Minichiello, for “assisting enormously in getting this event into the public spotlight,” suggesting the competition was reliant on the “support of the Dean’s initiative fund”.

“I think the growth in outreach and art entries every year, as well as the increasing quality of works submitted, testifies to the enormous success of the UNE School Art Prize,” Dr Alter said.

UNE continues to use technology to bring education to the community.  In the spirit of educational outreach, for those who did not attend, this event can be viewed online on YouTube at:


THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here, showing Elanor Beck with her prize-winning painting, expands to show Elanor with her father Rowan Webb and the Chancellor, Dr Richard Torbay.

Kerry Gulliver’s comments on the winning entries are below.

Section 1

First: “Flowers”, by Matisse Morrissey (KG at Gillwinga Public)

“I loved the freshness and spontaneity of this work. The lines are executed with vigour, and the colours breathe and glow with a life of their own, capturing that wonderful sense of elation one feels when looking at fresh flowers.  The work shows that lack of self-consciousness small children have when creating art, acting with pure instinct and passion.”

Second: “Walkabout”, by  Daniel Clark (Yr 2 Woodford Dale Public)

“It shows wonderful rhythm and patterning, pulsating and buzzing with life energy.  I particularly loved the chalice-like depiction of the trees, the branches cradling and almost throwing their leaves skyward.”

Section 2

First: “Still Life”, by Anthony Maccauley (Year 4 Woodford Dale)

“What really caught my eye was the use of complementary colours, a device that is under-utilised to a large extent in painting. It can create a great impact visually, as the colours react vibrantly when placed next to each other on the canvas.  The darkness of the purple recedes into the background, while the brilliance of the yellow comes forward.  The work has almost become abstract, as the forms have been broken down to fairly basic geometric shapes, which give it a rather charming naive quality.”

Second: “Mosaic face”, by Freya Weston (Yr6 Martins Gully Public)

“This work is strongly reminiscent of an early Roman mosaic, which I think was the intention – not only because of the mosaicing technique but also the demeanour of the subject. Instead of tiles, the artist has used torn paper to great effect, cleverly using photos of actual hair and skin.”

Section 3

First: “Introspection”, by Jessica Serov (Yr 9 NEGS)

“This reminds me of a Lin Onus work and was most likely influenced by this artist.  Artists, at whatever stage of their career, can learn a great deal about technique by copying the artists they like.  The floating leaves take on a more formal patterning effect as they move to the top of the work, which creates a lovely sense of perspective. The large water droplet on the leaf in the foreground draws the eye as it reflects fish and lotuses – creating a sense of intrigue as it is a bit ambiguous. The work also makes use of complementaries red and green, with the red going toward the more earthy tones, exaggerating the purity to the greens.”

Second: “T Pot Time”, by Elanor Beck (Yr 9 Duval)

“This is a whimsical and quirky piece.  The colours stand out strongly on the black background. The viewer could spend some time discovering the many small, oddly placed cups and saucers while pondering the meanings behind the images, or the story it may be relating, as it has a strongly illustrative quality.”

Section 4

First: Photo from the series  Journeys, by Anne De La Motte  (Yr 12 Duval)

“I was really attracted to the subtle, pearlescent colours, very understated and beautiful.  While the darkness of the model’s hair and features stand out, they don’t dominate the photographic image. There is a dream-like quality to the photograph and the model appears very distant, and largely insulated from the viewer.”

Second: “Dumaresq Dam”, by Jessica Hunt (Yr 11 Armidale High)

“This shows a very skilled use of textured brushwork. The modelling of the features through use of strong light and shade contrasts creates a striking image. The long shadows effectively draw the eye through to the sunlit shore in the background. This student shows lots of promise, and it would be interesting to see how they develop as a painter if they choose this path in life.”