Oct 4, 2016

Little Lincoln leaves lasting impression

Kevin Lincoln Burning off - Gippsland 1997
3 panels each 38.5 x 46cm overall 38.5 x 138cm
Watercolour and charcoal on paper
col: Gippsland Art Gallery

A friend and I spent a couple of hours intently the studying the John Leslie Art Prize (for landscapes) at the Gippsland Art Gallery a week or so ago. To get into the main gallery we had to pass a small show of works on paper, mainly drawings from the gallery's collection titled A Fine Line and one work jumped off the walls at us, it is shown above. We looked at it, discussed it at length and wandered off wondering what was making this rather feint scratchy little work stand out so much.


The more closely we looked at it the less we found that could possibly be the cause of its power, and maybe worse as drawing lecturers there were many aspects of this work that we would have advised any student to avoid, these could include lack of focus, form, structure, purposefulness or high quality line, shape and tonal delineation. It is probably a good candidate to be called "a bit soft" (about the worst thing any drawing can be called).

Maybe that's a rather perverse way of looking at it, a naughty kind of criticism; choosing a whole lot of things that this work doesn't even attempt to include and then bag it for their omission.

Still marveling we made our way into the John Leslie Art Prize, dutifully looking at each entry and discussing our perceptions of the intentions, degrees of difficulty, levels of achievement, place in historical thinking and even whether we felt it was even worth making in 2016. 

Things weren't going well for most of the entries in this process of our's! I've written a short piece on the winner, Amelda Read-Forsythe's Under the Storm, in my previous blog post which is coincidentally another quiet understated masterly work. And unsurprisingly we both gravitated towards what we thought of as the more classy controlled and reserved works that often take a hammering from the often cynically conceived blockbusters all too well represented in prize shows.With me getting very excited by Tim Bukovic's 2 little entries and my friend spending a great deal of time pointing out the sheer class of Ken Smith's The Road to the Sea 1.

Deep in conversation and deep into the body of the prize show we glanced at the little Lincoln that seems miles away down the other end of the gallery, it was still weaving its magic.

Maybe this was one of those “don’t try this at home until you really know what you’re doing” artworks, there’s more integrity in it than most artists will muster in their lifetimes, and more class, control and restraint than most will ever be able to see.

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