Inaugural bluethumb art prize: finalists announced

Art prizes, rewarded for objectively skilful facility, are esteemed by the quality of their participants and prizewinners. Online purveyor bluethumb announced its inaugural winners (from submissions solicited in 2016) this January, staking a starting position in the year’s prize calendar.

The $10,000 prize was launched at a party at No Vacancy Gallery, judged by a panel of 11 luminaries in the art world.

Contest winner Kirsten Sivyer submitted a surrealist panel painting titled ‘Home Away From Home’ in which a modernist block is subsumed by vines. It is unsettling, yet relatable, evoking dualisms like inside/outside and man/land. Panel painting is an old technique, dating to ancient depictions of sacred subjects. By choosing a landscape motif, Sivyer has turned the sacred to secular, and the domestic to fantastic.

Home Away From Home. Oil on timber panel. 80cm (W) x 80cm (H) © Kirsten Sivyer

Another shortlisted panel painting is ‘the lilt and boom threaded like an invisible rivulet in a desert of snow’ by Joe Scerri. Stark shards and ink strokes convey a representation of metaphysical flows through an indeterminate architectural setting. In a departure from panel art convention, Scerri leave the birch surface unfinished, using the natural striations as a backdrop to his linework and shard insets.

The title and ethereality are borrowed from the 1963 novel The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This structural complexity is made accessible by Scerri, like small ‘i’ by Aphex Twin.

The lilt and boom threaded like an invisible rivulet in a desert of snow. Archival ink, acrylic and graphite on birch panel. 120cm (W) x 150cm (H) © Joe Scerri

For those who appreciate establishment motifs, ‘Pomegranate’ by Anne-Marie Zanetti is reminiscent of the Dutch school of still life. Her assuredness shows in deliberate, draughtsmanlike application of oil.

Ripeness and redness, subjects traditionally associated with fecund abundance, are here rendered larger than life.

Pomegranate. Oil on stretched canvas. 89cm (W) x 60cm (H) © Anne-Marie Zanetti

Runner-up Jimmy Donegan depicts an ancient way of seeing with ‘The Pukara Rock Hole’. This is an earthy acrylic that is traditional Aboriginal in its projection of cosmic perspective. The dotted texture is finely topographical, symbolising metamorphoses of mythological man and land.

As evidenced by Sotheby’s London auctions, Aboriginal art is a frontier for investment, in transcending perspectives of establishment art.

The Pukara Rock Hole. Acrylic on unstretched canvas. 96cm (W) x 120cm (H) © Jimmy Donegan

Sivyer and Donegan share a common theme in their submissions, that is, the transformation of landscape by habitation. Other artists represented by bluethumb share this quality of accessibility, to sight as well as to buy.

Upon purchase from the Bluethumb online gallery, works are shipped directly from the artist’s base — as far as the remote location of Donegan’s desert studio.

As an entry into the primary market for both consumers and producers, bluethumb promises to nurture new talent, by way of its ease in the hierarchy of art.

– Maloti
Maloti writes about art and books.

Select entries of the bluethumb Art Prize Finalists are available for purchase.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of bluethumb.
Image credit: bluethumb.