What the Blunt Edge of Portraiture is about. (by Dom Johns)
In early 2007, Roland Nancarrow and I were enjoying a beer on his back deck whilst talking about the art scene in Cairns. We both agreed that there was a lack of opportunity for artists to exhibit in group shows and thought it would be a good idea if there was a show that enabled emerging artists to meet and work with more established ones. We got to talking about the traditional aspects of the arts in general, and it was a natural progression to end up at portraiture. As somewhat reactionary guys, we thought we could set up our own version of the Archibald and keep a distinctly “Cairnsian” flavor in the mix by excluding all the things that used to p@%! us off about establishment rules. As Roland was to describe it – “Keep it BLUNT!”
And so, The Blunt was born. From the outset, we decided that it was imperative whilst we had a bit of fun with the whole concept, the artistic merit of the entered works be treated with proper impartiality if we were to offer a prize. To enable this, we enlisted the services of a judge who was unknown to the artists, and from out of town. This also adds the possibility that various artists might be recognized for opportunities further afield of Cairns.
2007 – Steve Lopes – artist and editor of Artist Profile Magazine (Syd).
2008 – Phil Bayly – artist, restaurateur and previous chairperson of KickArts (Syd).
2009 – John Waldron – artist, curator, gallery director (Sunshine Coast QLD).
2010 – Susie Muddiman, Director of Tweed River Art Gallery, Murwillumbah NSW.
2011 – Simon Wright – Director of Griffith University Art Department.
After the success of the 2008 show, Kerri –Ann Roberts and Ross Brookes of Segue Art approached us and offered to sponsor the show to find and deliver successive judges. As such, they became our partners. They have been a great asset in helping with the logistics of the show and help us by providing an “outsiders” view of how the work measures up to the work they see whilst traveling the country. As professional art movers they are extremely supportive of the artists in Cairns that need to ship work or make contacts with various people in the creative industries.
Until now, The Blunt has always been a one night only, hot and sweaty exhibition, held at the Pink Phoenix Gallery (which is the bottom floor of Roland’s house). Reaching an audience of c.300 and c.450 in 2009, it has been an extremely successful event with great entertainment, a fascinating mixture of artistic style, good food, plenty of laughs and something that the whole community is talking about. We have increased the field of artists by 20 each year (this year has 82 entrants!) to accommodate the Blunt Virgin Award, and several local businesses have been keen to sponsor prizes. There has never been any grant to assist the running. We have had artists ranging in age from 16 – 88, portraits in poem, wet clay, film, mixed media, photography, and mosaic as well as the more traditional forms.
Some of the awards on the night are: The Early Bird Award (first work delivered); The William Dobel Caricature Award; The Hill Benson Award (photography), The Michelangelo Award(Sculpture), The Mofo Award (these winners will get to collaborate with Sam Tupou, one of Australia’s leading artists),The Dingo Award (Most Aussie work); People’s Choice (Sponsored by justpurple); WTF Award (What the ….); Smorgasbord Award (Mixed Media) and of course, The Blunt, which is a trophy award.
The event has evolved to begin with a public barrel draw to show the entrants we are above board. This usually happens once the database has been finalized (some 2-3 months prior to the show). Once the names are drawn, all we ask is that everyone makes the attempt to spend a small amount of time getting to know their subject, and then keep it Blunt. The size restrictions we stipulate are “matchbox to mattress,” and any medium. This can prove to make hanging hard and occasionally we may double hang. Roland and I have always tried to be fair in our curating of the show and we have had many requests from artists to be included. Our main rule is that someone has to live in the area to gain entry. If they have been in a prior Blunt, then they will continue to be invited back. If however, they don’t do it, then they will only get back in once they are back in Cairns. If someone who has entered neglects to do their portrait – they are not invited back (unless they have a doctor’s certificate).
The real success of The Blunt is undoubtedly the fact that it is an audience’s delight. Whilst it may open the eyes of many to a particular artist’s work, it nevertheless succeeds best as a group show in producing many laughs and the odd commission. Last year The Blunt was listed third as one of the best things you didn’t know about Cairns……..now you do!