2014 JADA finalist Angus McDonald’s entry The Lessons of History.
2014 JADA finalist Angus McDonald’s entry The Lessons of History.

Local finalists up against major artists for the JADA

NEXT Friday night another Australian artist will find him or herself $20,000 better off (richer is probably a term many creatives are not familiar with) thanks to the Clarence Valley's own prestigious art award endearingly known as the JADA.

It's official long-winded title - the Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award -- has slowly and somewhat quietly been amassing a public collection of contemporary drawing that would even see the necks of metropolitan gallery directors crane to get a sneak peek at what we hold here in the vaults of Grafton Regional Gallery.

The Clarence's signature art prize and one of Australia's richest, has been attracting the cream of the country's artistic practitioners over its 26-year history, including many winners and finalists of other prestigious awards like the Archibald and Moran.

This year, there was also a strong North Coast contingent entering, according to gallery director Jude McBean, including a big turnout from artists right here in the Valley.

After the 340 initial entries were whittled down to 50 finalists the statistics came back with new records being set locally and regionally.

"This is our highest number of Clarence Valley finalists ever," Ms McBean said. "We have four from this area making it 19 all up from the North Coast."

Of all the finalists Ms Bean said, 28 live in regional areas while the rest hail from metropolitan bases.

"We have some big guns in there" she said while reciting a who's who of the Australian artistic landscape, including Wendy Sharpe, Angus McDonald, Bruno Leti, Locust Jones, Christopher Orchard and Graham Fransella.

"Because the main prize is $20,000 (plus another $20,000 in further acquisitions) it means we attract those major artists. Some of these artists easily sell their drawings in that price range. With our award's generous size restrictions we always seem to get really big artworks which they love producing for galleries and corporate spaces."

Ms McBean said there was quite a range of subjects and mediums entered this year with the boundaries of what is considered a drawing being pushed with each award.

"You will find every type of drawing in the JADA from those in the box to works bringing new electronic mediums and specialised sophisticated technology into use and the integration of these new and old mediums. John's recommendations should be really interesting."

John is John McDonald, the respected Sydney Morning Herald art critic who is not known for holding back when it comes to his commentary.

While Mr McDonald is looking forward to casting his critical eye over this year's line-up of finalists, he said the job did have its drawbacks.

"It's a thankless task to judge art prizes because you make one artist happy and a lot of them cranky. The very nature of the artist is egoist and they expect their work is the best, so you don't make any friends doing things like this."

Mr McDonald said the gallery and the drawing award had a very good reputation nationally. "Grafton's art collection, mainly through JADA, is very well thought of all over Australia. It's probably the country's primary drawing award as it's been going for a good while now, so it's very well established. You hear about people from all over Australia thinking about submitting to this award. That's what you really want to put a regional gallery on the map."

Mr McDonald said despite the Grafton Regional Gallery being the home for such a prestigious national award, you shouldn't take anything for granted.

"Regional galleries rise and fall on the strength of their councils. If you have a sympathetic council and the gallery is going well that's great, but then if you ended up with a bunch of nitwits that are in there on strength of 30 or 40 votes things can go bad.

"Look at Newcastle. It was the premier regional gallery in the state travelling along very nicely and in comes Mayor McCloy and kills everything stone dead. Jeff McCloy (property developer) who now had to resign because he was handing bags of money to politicians."

Mr Donald said Grafton was fortunate to have a good gallery and a good space. "It's got a very welcoming environment in comparison to say somewhere like Coffs Harbour, which is much wealthier place but it doesn't really take the gallery as seriously as it deserves to be taken. The director has done a lot of work down there and she has got little appreciation for it."

OPENING NIGHT

The announcement of the 2014 JADA winner and the acquisitions will take place this Friday, October 17. Guest judge is Sydney Morning Herald art critic John McDonald. The gala opening starts at 5.30pm and will feature entertainment by sought after funk and groove band The Ninth Chapter as well as delicious finger food and a wine bar staffed by the Friends of the Gallery. Get out your cocktail gear and come along to celebrate the arrival of some of Australia's finest examples of contemporary drawing right here on the Clarence. Tickets are on sale now at the gallery $30 pre-sold, $25 members, or $35 at the door. For inquiries 6642 3177.

HISTORY OF THE JADA

THE Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award (JADA) is the flagship of the Grafton Regional Gallery.

The drawing award started in 1988 when the Jacaranda Art Prize (JAS) became the Jacaranda Art Society Acquisitive Drawing Exhibition and was presented for the first time by the Grafton Regional Gallery with the support of the Jacaranda Art Society.

The inaugural Director of the Gallery Julian Faigen made the decision to change the prize for 1988 from a general one with four sections to an acquisitive drawing prize (which means the gallery retains the artworks) with a $5000 fund. This decision recognised the need for regional galleries to specialise in their collections to allow for the development of identity, to reflect regional and historical difference, to encourage diversity and to reduce competition with other public institutions.

In 1994, the JADA formed the structure it still holds today with an acquisitive first prize and further acquisitions when sponsorship of $5000 was gained from Telstra. The Friends of the Gallery became the sponsors of a $5000 first prize in 1998 with the gallery funding the $5000 further acquisitions award.

At the same time, the JADA became selective with artists now invited to submit images of their entries. In 2000, the total prize money doubled to $20,000 and to celebrate the 20 years of the JADA the award was increased to $30,000.

This year the amount was increased to $40,000 with a major award of $20,000 along with further acquisitions to the value of $20,000 to add to their contemporary drawing collection.

The major sponsors are the Friends of the Gallery who raise $15,000 towards the prizemoney while the gallery sponsors the remainder of the acquisition fund. The Friends conduct an annual program which includes the Soup Day, and last year the Rocking High Tea. The gallery holds a biennial program which includes a print night and postcard show among its fundraisers.

Since 1998, the JADA Exhibition has toured throughout the eastern seaboard of Australia for 18 months after its launch exhibition Grafton. The demand from venues to receive the tour of the JADA is indicated by the popularity of the award and the genre of drawing. Each award travels to seven regional and metropolitan galleries. The gallery's patron Ken Done made available his gallery in The Rocks, Sydney, for the tour until 2006, after which the gallery was refurbished into a smaller space.

After its run, it returns to the collection room at the Grafton Regional Gallery. JADA acquisitions are often featured in collection retrospectives and specially curated programs, used for educational purposes and can be occasionally found on public display in Clarence Valley Council offices - the gallery's administrator.

The biennual JADA has maintained its edge set by the original Jacaranda Art Prize of being the richest regional drawing award in Australia. The contemporary Australian drawing collection formed from the award is nationally recognised for its significance.

The award continues to encourage contemporary and innovative drawing and attracts on average 400 entries, from which around 50 entries are selected by a panel of art professionals for the exhibition from which the judge selects the winner and further acquisitions.

The JADA provides artists who reside in Australia with a rewarding opportunity to explore the complexity of drawing through the Australia's richest regional drawing award. Its purpose is to seek, encourage and promote innovation and excellence in drawing while playing a vital role in fostering Australian drawing practice.

It's development over its 26-year history has provided a significant platform for artists in the late 20th century, and now into the 21st, in which to operate as it continues to harness skillful and innovative practice from across the country.



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