Whitecliffe Top Arts School in Auckland

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Whitecliffe Top Arts School in Auckland

Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design and the Eden Arts Trust are delighted to announce the winners of the fifth annual Eden Arts Art Schools Award held this past Monday on 20 July. The Overall Winner was Whitecliffe Year 4 Fine Arts student Giulio Laura, who won $5,000 in prize money. One of the three Highly Commended awards, with a prize of $1,000, went to Whitecliffe Year 4 Fine Arts student Tanya Martusheff.

The Eden Arts Art Schools Award brings together Central Auckland's four major art institutions: Whitecliffe, Auckland University Elam School of Fine Arts, AUT and Unitec. Five undergraduate students were selected as finalists from each school. Finalists from Whitecliffe included Year 3 Photo Media student Georgia Perriam, Year 4 Fine Arts student Sophie Guilford-Smith and Year 4 Photo Media student Rainer Weston.

The awards have proven to be an annual success for Whitecliffe students since their inception in 2011. Whitecliffe students have won the top award four out of the five years. Previous Overall Winners from Whitecliffe have been Donna Summers in 2011, Veronika Djoulai in 2013 and Alex Matthews in 2014. In 2012, Suhee Kang won the Board’s Choice Award. Mark O’Donnell received a Highly Commended Award in 2013, as well as Giulio Laura in 2014.

Whitecliffe Dean of College Tommy Honey comments on the significance of the awards and what this means for fine arts education in Auckland:

"Often I am asked “Why Whitecliffe?” or “How do your students compare?” Never an easy question to answer but I usually respond by saying that the only objective measure we have is the annual Eden Arts Awards. With the four key art schools in Auckland participating, and the blind judging, it is the most level playing field we have. And to be able to say with pride (as I have and do, regularly) that we have won it in three out of the four years it had run, always gave me a sense of satisfaction, based on real evidence.

This year was a game-changer. To win again, under the same objective conditions, is simply not a repeat of the past; it is a sign of the future. This is not a fluke, a coincidence or pandering to the judges (who were all new to the awards last night). This is not a matter of “oh well, they had good students that year”. We have good students every year.

But this is more than simply evidence of good students; it is solid (to my mind, irrefutable) evidence that we have a great programme and even better teachers. To win four out of five years is no accident. It is the result of a mature programme delivered with dedication, to eager and committed students. To me and – I would hope – the leaders of the other art schools and programmes, it is time for the art world to sit up and notice.

For our students, there should be no doubt as to why they are here: this is where they will get the best art and design education and the best opportunities. They should be confident that they have made the right decision about where to study."

The awards were blind judged by renowned artists Denys Watkins, Mary-Louise Browne and gallerist Melanie Roger. Melanie Roger comments on the judging process:

“Mary Louise Browne, Denys Watkins and myself are all known to have strong opinions, so choosing a winner could have been fraught with difficulty. I am pleased to say this was not the case however, and we were in fact unanimous in our choice."

We found the selection of works from all four art schools to be very strong, and for us – as long timers in the industry that you are all hoping to be part of – we were thrilled to see such high standards and promise coming through across a range of mediums.

The work that we have selected as the overall winner is accompanied by an artist’s statement – not entirely written by the artist, but rather by a writer indicated only with the initials H.S. They describe the works as “at first glance nonchalant premeditated gestures, nimble and furtive, easy to dismiss as ill-conceived and superficial, hinting at expressive stylistic flourishes”.

All three of us did in fact like this suite of works at first glance as predicted by H.S. The works are fresh and contemporary. We liked the use of “seized paint” as a medium finding it cheeky and slightly irreverant. They have an urban cool about them that caused me (at least) to second guess myself and think about whether they were too seductive and therefore perhaps a little superficial.

BUT it was reading the accompanying statement - which I urge you all to do too - that cemented our decision.

The artist statement in itself is not just text to accompany what we see visually, but rather forms a part of the work . The artist has drawn up “A Wishlist” as per the title of the piece, and invited the audience to participate in a ritualistic exchange and become part of their life and art practise. As a starting point for this series of potential exchanges, the written promotional text by H.S. has been swapped for an artwork.

What you see on the walls is a means to an end. There is almost an arrogance in the way they have been described and manufactured so deliberately with a purpose in mind - this in itself creating a commentary on the exchanges that take place within the art world, the role of the artist and what and how it means for an artist to make work and make a living.

Take a look at the list. If you have any of the items that the artist has deemed desirable, you too may have the chance to acquire a piece and become a part of the work.

Some of you will have guessed by now whose work I am talking about, so without further ado – the overall winner of the Eden Arts Art Schools Award for 2015 is Giulio Laura. Congratulations."

The award exhibition is hosted this year by The University of Auckland and is open for public viewing at their Gus Fisher Gallery located at 74 Shortland Street, Auckland CBD. Exhibition dates are Tuesday 21 July – 1 August open 10am-5pm (closed Sunday and Monday). For more information, please visit the Eden Arts Trust website. 

Whitecliffe would like to congratulate Giulio and Tanya on their achievement!

Image courtesy of Eden Arts Trust, pictured from left to right: Nicholas Pound, Bridie Halpin, Winner Giulio Laura (Whitecliffe), Tanya Martusheff (Whitecliffe) and Melissa McMahon

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