John Olsen, The tree of life, oil on canvas, 152 x 182cm
Wynne Prize Finalist 2018
I know I’m not alone when I express a desire to be included, just once, in a major exhibition. Something like the Wynne Prize or the Mosman Art Prize.
These exhibitions have a tradition and a prestige in the Australian art scene. Every year many hundreds of suckers like me – wannabes, I guess – pay our $50 or so to have a chance to be considered as Finalists.
Oh, I’ve done all the math. Just over 5 % of submissions end up on the walls as Finalists in the Wynne prize. Now if a Doctor gave you only a 5% chance of contracting some dread disease, you’d go, ‘Oh! Ok well that’s fine then. I’m home and hosed.’
Yep…a 95% chance of missing out. My $50 – which didn’t get into my pocket all that easily – down the drain yet again. Why. Why. Why do I persist?
One friend tells me philosophically that she regards it as her “Annual donation to the Art Gallery of NSW”, wryly acknowledging her slim chances of selection. Another friend has long ago decided he’ll never attempt it, as the continued rejection is too disheartening. Both of them have good arguments, and yet I keep on.
Andrew Sullivan, T-rex (tyrant lizard king), oil on canvas, 152.5 x 213cm
Winner, Sulman Prize 2014
I’ve figured out what the hook is. I want to be with the Big Kids. Dammit, I want to BE a Big Kid. Not for fame or fortune (though they’d be fine, thank you.) I think it’s about being seen (by who????) to be in their gang. Esteem? Peer recognition? It’s something along those lines I reckon. And yet, what arrogance is this? (Put the concept of ‘talent’ aside, please – I’ve always considered this to be mainly superstitious claptrap.) No, most of it comes down to practice. Lots and lots and then, surprise, lots more. Practice. Faithfulness to the craft. The people who are really on the top are so very dedicated. I don’t come close.
Ok, but I still want to throw my hat in the ring because… You Never Know. And the success of these prestigious shows – and the vast amounts of money that are generated from the $50 per entry – is dependent on so many entering. It’s good professional practice, too, to work to a deadline, get your work entered. Every time I do that, I am in fact playing with the Big Kids because ALL the Big Kids have to do that as well, each and every time. Somehow they make time to do this.
The secret is Not to Think Too Much About It.
Put in your entry. Blow it a kiss. Now leave it alone: get on with your work. Back into the studio and focus your attention where it truly needs to be: in creating something worthwhile.
I read a quote somewhere and will no doubt misquote, but it goes something like: ” don’t seek to have your work recognised. Rather, seek to create work worthy of recognition”. It’s an important distinction. Don’t go chasing the ego-driven outcome. Instead focus on the profound, some say sacred, act of being an agent of creation. Stay humble. Keep working.
Momentarily she felt at one with the Universe
2019, acrylic on board, 122 x 82cm
My entry for this year’s Sulman Prize.