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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 writes about art and books.
Select entries of the bluethumb Art Prize Finalists are available for purchase.