Biennial Wairarapa Art Review Surprises

Aratoi’s biennial Wairarapa Review was one of the most hotly contended art competitions of the year, with a staggering 145 entrants for the chance to win one of only 8 awards.

The New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Wairarapa Art Review was a record breaker for number of entries submitted, the most in the entire history of the review. Marcia Page, from Page Galleries was the chosen selector who had the difficult job of whittling the number down to just 79.

Marcia noted “It was a real challenge to narrow down the selection to 79, and from those 79 to find a winner from each category. There are so many artworks that I want to acknowledge and say to the artists how much I love your work.”

The Wairarapa Art Review is a biennial art competition run by the Friends of Aratoi. It aims to showcase the very best art and artists from the whole Wairarapa region, with a stunning 56 artists who submitted work for the review for the first time. Over seven categories, these new entrants are up against more familiar names, in Photography, 3D, Exciting Use of Colour, and Portraiture. The three top prizes of Best Emerging artist, Highly Commended and Premier Prize are chosen from the whole selection. The public are asked to vote on the eighth award, announced in February.

Jason Burns is still a bit surprised by winning the Rosewood Premier Award last week 

Burns, who lives in Masterton, has been busily painting over the last few months, creating seven pieces with all the same dimensions. He submitted his new piece of work 'Submarine Head' for the review, because "of the bright colours and I felt it had a good balance to it."

Marcia Page described ‘Submarine Head’ as “a narrative of life, the artist’s everyday life, their concerns, their interests. The work speaks to the senses, it is intense, urban, almost noisy. Everywhere there is something going on, there are no quiet corners.”

The review has been won by many well known and highly regarded artists across the region since its first outing in 1999, with names such as Sam Ludden, Ian Chapman and Gina Jones. Burns, who exhibited his first solo show at Aratoi earlier this year, will be an interesting artist to watch over the coming years.

Wairarapa favourite Hélène Carroll, scooped the Highly Commended prize for her work ‘Where Do We Come From’. Carroll, who has had her work exhibited in Israel this year is recognised for her surprisingly bright coloured paintings depicting her family’s story through the horror that was the Holocaust.

The Photography Award went to Lisa Nelson with her gorgeous photograph ‘Hyacinth’. Her work captivated Marcia from across the room and remarked that the classic photograph of flowers is as old as time; but Nelson made the subject as fresh today as it was 300 years ago.

The Portraiture award went to Harry Watson and his piece ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Grumpy Fuck’, with the artist attempting to answer some of life’s big questions through his sensitive and beautiful use of his chosen media.

Leah Creaven’s colourful depiction ‘Rapa Rising’ entranced, awarding her the prize for Exciting Use of Colour. Creaven, who has been creating her unique rug tufted art for only the last 18 months, started over the first lockdown from her passion for people to understand more about the NZ Wool industry.

Hillview Property 3D Award winner Carolina Vargas-Gonzalez collected the prize with her clever and thought- provoking work ‘Break The Chain’. Her work stood out not only for its composition and technical excellence but for its relevance and contemporary narrative.

Jo Lysaght with ‘Urban View Reduction’, won the ConArt Emerging Artist Award. The intriguing use of lino cut impressed, as well as being technically brilliant and with a beautiful balance of colour and the visual appeal of a modernist painting.

Friends of Aratoi Chair Sandra Debney was overwhelmed by the work selected and public response to this year’s competition saying “the work just gets better every year; this was the best selection we have ever had. It was wonderful to have the community join us for the awards, everyone had so much fun and the support for our local artists has been incredible.”

The eighth award is the People’s Choice Award which will be announced in February. Members of the public are asked to vote on their favourite piece over the summer. We look forward to seeing who will win from this incredible line up of works.

The award winners are:

Rosewood Premier Award Jason Burns - Submarine Head

Rigg Zschokke Highly Commended Award Hélène Carroll - Where Do We Come From

Pete Nikolaison Photography Award Lisa Nelson - Hyacinth

Jane Hyder Portrait Award Harry Watson - Portrait of the Artist as a Grumpy Fuck

Gwen Saunders Exciting Use of Colour Award Leah Creaven -‘Rapa Rising'

Hillview Property 3D Award Carolina Vargas- Gonzalez - Break The Chain

ConArt Emerging Artist Award Jo Lysaght- Urban View Reduction

The exhibition is showing at Aratoi until 13 February, with all works available for sale. After the commission for the artists is deducted, the rest goes towards the continued work of the Museum to preserve and look after the region’s taonga, through collections, exhibitions, public programmes and education programmes.

December 2021