On a warm and muggy night in late December, hundreds of people turned out to discover who had won the eight categories in the New Zealand Sotheby's International Realty Wairarapa Art Review 2023.
The week before, 122 artists from across the region dropped off their work to Aratoi to be judged by Sophie Davis, Manager and Curator from Hastings City Art Gallery, who selected 75 pieces to go forward.
A surprised Andrew Olsen scooped the Rosewood Premier Prize with his work titled ‘Study for a Self Portrait’.
Andrew explains, “The subtext of the painting is that the person looking at the painting is also being viewed by the hyena’s looking out - who is the ‘self’ being portrayed? Fences keep you out and safe but also keeps me in.”
Judge Sophie Davis remarks “This work stood out due to it’s the confidence of its style, and humour and irreverence in its title and subject matter. It’s a bit of a wild card, a painting which questions the relationship between the viewer and subject.”
Many were surprised by Andrew’s win, but the artist likes it that way.
“I think the artist's job is to make art that deepens the mystery and asks a few polite and impolite questions along the way. A lot of work doesn't cut it and gets destroyed. This piece made it, and I am delighted it was awarded the Premier prize. It might cause a bit of controversy about what good art is. I hope so.”
Rigg Zchlokke’s Highly Commended Prize went to Esther Bunning.
“This is such an honour - I'm blown away. I’m grateful thanks to the Friends of Aratoi Museum of Art and History, the selector Sophie Davis, and Rigg Zschokke for sponsoring this award.” she said.
Esther’s work titled ‘I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past/ Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua, shows that past, the present and the future are intertwined.
“This is my great grandmother’s schoolbook from 1891. She was about 13 at the time and attended St Mary’s Convent in Ponsonby. On the few occasions these were gently unwrapped to view it when I was growing up, we marvelled over her incredibly beautiful writing, her detailed drawings of maps and her letter writing.”
New sponsors, The Chip and Candy Show, awarded the prize for best Photography. Mel Wood won with her beautiful black and white image called On the Edge of Fangorn.
“Although humble in scale, this photograph stood out for its simplicity and beautiful tones, and study of an organic form.” Sophie explains.
The Friends of Aratoi sponsored the Landscape Award which was won by Jo Lysaght with her woodcut Gabrielle’s Chaos.
Sophie found this section hard to judge. “There were many great entries in this category, which is to be expected give the beautiful landscapes in this region. However, the winning work captured the raw power of nature through a skillful and highly evocative woodcut print.”
Jo Lysaght was thrilled to have her woodcut selected for the Aratoi Wairarapa Art Review. “Then to win the Landscape Award was such a lovely surprise! It was a real highlight to end the year.” she says.
The Jane Hyder Portrait Award went to Jann Lenihan with her work titled Intergenerational Healing.
“The winning work in this category really engaged with how a portrait can express identity, and the ways this is shaped by our whakapapa or ancestry and stitched together from those around us and our experiences in the world.” Sophie said.
“Intergenerational Healing consists of woodblock and linocut prints on vintage linen,” Jann explains, “I have made self-portraits and an accurate representation of my great-grandmother, Frances Mary Wakelin, and included DNA and koru patterns together with words.”
The Gwenda Saunders Exciting Use of Colour Award was won by Wairarapa favourite Hélène Carroll with her work titled A Story in Two Parts.
“My art practice is an examination of a traumatic period of history- The Holocaust, that brutally exterminated most of the members of my extended family,” Hélène explains.
“I use colour and patterning as a means of drawing in the viewer to look at the work, and then hopefully see beyond the decorative surface towards a deeper narrative.”
The Hillview property 3D Award was won by Sandra Schmid with Shards.
“The winner is a jeweller who had worked with their materials to create a piece that is both technical and conceptual – responding to the desire to ‘pick up the pieces’ of our world and put them back together.” Sophie remarked.
“It was such an honour to receive the award and the work is a very personal journey.” Sandra said.
The ConArt Gallery and Studios Emerging Artist Award went to Deborah Illingworth with her work called This Tangled Earth. "I was so shocked to win," Deborah says, "I tried something new with this piece and I will do it again!"
The final award is the Frank Minehan People’s Choice award which will be announced on Sunday 18 February at 2pm.