10 May 2023

The art's back in Ardlethan celebrating local talent with a gala opening

| Chris Roe
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three people and a painting

Dr Sam Bowker, artist Heidi Guttormsen and Tim Kurylowicz at the 2022 event. Photo: Advance Ardlethan.

The Ardlethan Art Prize is back, with the tiny Riverina town preparing to celebrate local artists and local themes this coming weekend.

“With the artists that enter, we’re sort of looking at probably about a 250-mile radius,” said Karen Wood from Advance Ardlethan.

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“We get one or two entries from Sydney, but it’s mostly from Griffith, Leeton, Narrandera, Temora, Wagga, Lockhart, Coolamon and Junee, and I really like that because we’re supporting the local artists.

“There’s so much talent within this area!”

The art prize kicks off on Friday (12 May) with the gala opening night at the Memorial Hall, where the winners are announced and attendees will have an early opportunity to pick up an original painting.

Two men with a painting

Tim Kurylowicz and Dr Sam Bowker will again judge the event. Photo: Advance Artlethan.

“It was five years ago that we started doing this with (Riverina artist) Yanni Johns just to test the waters, and it got such a great response that we turned it into an art prize,” Karen said.

“And people do buy the art, we’ve sold 13 on one night and people have got commissions so it lifts the profile of the local artists too and gives them a buzz to know that someone appreciates it.”

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There are two prize categories, including the open section and the 2023 theme Red Dirt and Gum Trees, with Eastern Riverina Arts’ Tim Kurylowicz and CSU’s Dr Sam Bowker returning to pick the winners.

“They do a wonderful job and they also pick out three or four to comment on and it’s great feedback and you get to know why the paintings are chosen,” said Karen.

Two people and a painting

Coolamon Mayor David McCann with Karen Woods. Photo: Advance Ardlethan.

Tim Kurylowicz said it was one of his favourite art events to attend.

“For a very small community, Ardlethan really knows how to put on a really great event,” he said with enthusiasm.

“It attracts entries from right across our region and beyond, and that’s because people love to enter, but they also love to attend.

”Going to the opening night is one of the most fun exhibition openings nights you’ll go to. They put on a great feed and there’s a real sense of country community and you just can’t fake that.”

In terms of picking a winner, Tim says he’s guided by his fellow judge and his response to the paintings.

“Professor Sam Bowker brings this incredible knowledge as an art historian and I rely on him to really look at the technique and to understand what’s going on within the artwork,” he said.

“And for me, I always look for works that speak to me and that have a ‘stay factor’ so that they draw your eye back and make you linger.

“It can be hard to explain but there’s something a little bit magical about an artwork that just works, and that’s what I look for.”

As well as the two prize categories, Karen explained that there was also an acquisitive aspect to the exhibition.

“The Coolamon Council purchases one that is then hung in our new museum,” she said.

“While it is open to any artist anywhere, it has to be relevant to this area or in the farming area, so we’ve had the kelpie and the Mirrool Creek in flood.”

The art prize will begin this Friday, 12 May, with the gala opening night.

After Friday’s gala opening, the exhibition continues on Saturday and Sunday (13-14 May) from 10 am to 3 pm.

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