Coonabarabran artist Zac Craig was stunned but more than delighted when his self-portrait painting was named grand champion at the 52nd Art & Ceramics Exhibition on Friday night.

A recent new resident to Coonabarabran, Zac heard about the exhibition from a friend and decided to enter and with the grand champion prize of $1200, sponsored by Wendy and Brett Blackmore, it was well worth the trip over for the opening night.

Art judge Lauren Mackley said “there is a lot to learn from the application of paint in this artwork. The tone of the skin, the built-up layers to reach highlights and the clean palette make the subject matter come to life. A small but powerful work”.

Ceramics judge Bridie Moran still has a local connection in her parents, Tony and Martine Moran, and with such a high standard of entries, she described the task of choosing winners as “very hard”.

She awarded the grand champion prize in ceramics to Carol Forster’s entry, Small Banksia Sketch, describing it as “capturing through a contemporary combining of hand building and painterly techniques, the beauty of the banksia’s form and colour”. Sponsored by Stripes Group Gunnedah, the grand champion prize is valued at $750.

The exhibition was officially opened by Cr Juliana McArthur, who described the landscape around Gunnedah as “truly inspirational” for artists.

Arts Gunnedah president, Helen Stanley, thanked the committee members who worked hard to organise and coordinate the exhibition, especially Di Hasler who had worked tirelessly to make sure everything ran to plan.

“Thank you also to the volunteers who come along and help in so many ways – communicating with the sponsors and artists, collecting art from depots, receiving and labelling the art, hanging the art, and manning the gallery,” she said.

“Thank you also to our generous sponsors and to every artist … for without them, this show would not have been possible.

“A big thank you to our judges, Bridie Moran, our ceramics judge and Lauren Mackley, who judged our art sections.”

The popular competition attracted 300 entries, with artists from as far away as Victoria and Queensland, Scone, North Richmond, Coonabarabran, Armidale, Tamworth, The Entrance, Inverell and Narrabri sending their artworks, either by freight or hand delivered to pick-up depots in Armidale, Tamworth, Coonabarabran and Scone.

First place in the open section went to Gunnedah’s Maree Kelly, with her entry Ephemeral Wetland, Pilliga, with the judge commenting that “the abstract and refined realism collides through a soft dreamscape to encapsulate the subject”. Isabella Sowerby of Coonabarabran was awarded second prize with her painting “My Dreaming Son”. Highly commended: Bradford White (Gunnedah), Evelyn Alvarez (Tamworth).

Carolyn Marrone, of Kangaroo Flat, Victoria, was awarded first place in the watercolour section with her “cheeky and quirky” subject of two nuns in white habits checking their mobile phone at the Vatican. Second place was awarded to Gunnedah’s Shirley Urquhart (Mooki Reflections).

Gunnedah’s Kristie Farquhar won the graphics section with her drawing Eye Spy an Emu, while Gail Southwell (Scone) picked up second prize with her dramatic image Sturt’s Desert Pea.

Gunnedah’s veteran artist Anne Knight received first prize in the printmaking section with her delightful artwork Windflowers, with Susie Spencer (Armidale) awarded second place with her print Until Spring. The local section/local artist prize went to Helen Stanley with her artwork titled Road to Anywhere, which the judge said “resonates with days of driving in country Australia”. Second place was awarded to Kristie Farquhar’s work Local Inhabitants. First prize in the mixed media section went to Gunnedah’s Cat Long, and her work titled Old Man Banksia, with second place going to Carolyn Marrone with her delicate work Oranges. `

Janice Hanicar (Singleton) won the sculpture section, with her work Convergence described as “refined and poised” while Greg Hill (Gunnedah) received second prize with his piece Asuf D Alwa.

Two Gunnedah artists took out the art novice section, with first prize awarded to Gayle Filson (Idyllic Homestay) and second prize to Mary-Anne Cummings (Feeling Blue). Allyra Sheather (Gunnedah) won the open youth section (10-14 years), with Crazy Bin Chicken, with Grace Groves (Pidgeon Toe) in second place. Highly commended: Neiva Walton (Neytiri), Katie Farquhar (Deep Blue). 15-18 years: Jesse Montgomery-Hutchin (Icon) in first place, Jada Vilegas (Albert Namatjira) was second. Highly commended: Sybella Thomson (Vinnie).

Thrown pot: Annie Simson (Gunnedah) 1, Evelyn Alvarez (Tamworth) 2. Highly commended: Jen Carlin (Gunnedah), Yvonne Groves (Portland.
Hand built: Kylie Lamph (Tamworth) 1, Marlena Bladwell (Gunnedah) 2. Highly commended: Vera Banks (Gunnedah).

Ceramics novice:
Julie Ross (Gunnedah) 1, Georgie Carrigan (Gunnedah) 2. Highly commended: Ann Luke (Gunnedah), Cat Long (Gunnedah).
The art and ceramics exhibition is open at the Bicentennial Creative Arts Centre until August 26. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favourite work in the People’s Choice Award valued at $250 for the winning artist.

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