It was an immense honour to be invited by the City of Karratha to be one this year’s judges in the Cossack Art Award, recognised as the most isolated acquisitive art exhibition in the world and the richest award of its kind in Australia. I’ve been a participating artist in the awards a few times, but never had the opportunity to visit. Immersing myself in the culture of the region and viewing the breadth of practice of Australian artists was a truly rewarding experience.
The experience was made all the more memorable by working alongside beautiful humans/artists/fellow judges David Spencer and James Giddy. Judging almost 300 artworks ranging in medium, level of proficiency, technique, subject matter and size was no easy task. Our initial view of the works was undertaken carefully and considerately, individually. Yes, we spent time viewing each and every artwork, regardless of where the work was hung (a question a few participating artists asked). A collaborative process was then undertaken, cross referencing and discussing the merits of each shortlisted work. Each artwork was judged on its own merit, the artist and supporting text remaining anonymous until the final round. There were many incredible works and reducing our selections to just a few was very difficult.
A comment I received during judging from a visitor was their assumption of judging being: ‘you just choose whatever you like’. That is actually very far from the truth. The works which stood out above others are powerful, having the ability to connect on an emotional level. They are intriguing, inviting us in for closer inspection, wanting us to learn more. They each offer a unique narrative, with a personal story underpinning the intent. Some of the criteria used to determine our selections were originality, concept/theme, composition, execution/skill, the use of colour, light and shadows. We had a few artists asking us for feedback on their work and I hope this information is useful.
I extend a massive congratulations to the winners and all artists who entered the award. Presenting work which is critiqued by the public and other artists takes courage and I encourage all artists to continue on their journey of experimentation and self expression.
I had some wonderful conversations with other artists and arts workers from the region and beyond. The regional community was very welcoming, appearing close knit, all working towards a common goal of supporting one another. There were many highlights of my visit including a visit to Yinjaa Barni Art and Cheeditha Art Group. The standout was Clinton Walker’s tour of the ancient rock art in the Burrup Peninsula. Fascinating stories backed by scientific research provided an incredible insight into the Indigenous people and landscape of the Pilbara. I feel privileged to have gained a deeper cultural understanding and connection to country.
I’d like to thank the City of Karratha, their supportive staff and the sponsors of this important annual event. Regional artists communicate their unique region and culture through their practice. It’s important that there are avenues for exposure of this output to the wider public to enable respect for and understanding of their diverse practices.
It’s vital to support regional arts practices, to assist in building creative capacity, to provide greater development and exhibition opportunities. Art has the power to connect communities, create employment, transform towns and cities. It’s important that art is inclusive and accessible to all.
I look forward to future opportunities and collaborations, to share my knowledge and expertise as a professional artist and continue my ongoing contribution to the arts community. It’s a truly special community to be a part of. ✨
1. Sioux Tempestt, James Giddy, David Spencer, Jenna Pickering winner of the Best Overall Artwork ‘Looking Beyond’ and Mayor Peter Long
2. Jenna Pickering winner of the City of Karratha Best Overall Artwork ‘Looking Beyond’
3. Pine Byrne, winner of the Pilbara Development Commission 2023 Best Artwork by Pilbara Artist category for entry, Bush Seeds
4. Allery Sandy, winner of the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi Foundation Ltd and Tutt Bryant Equipment 2023 Painting by Pilbara Indigenous Artist category for entry, Marni