Guest Post: Parkin Drawing Prize

A guest post by Mikenmild:

Kiwibloggers may have noticed an article about one of New Zealand’s major art prizes being awarded to an artist for a sheet of paper covered with typewritten forward slashes.

The drawing prize was endowed in 2012 by arts patron Chris Parkin. Interviewed in 2013, he said “drawing should be every artist’s boot camp; an essential return to basics, the framework for everything which follows. I’ve got no idea why the value of drawing was diminished but I still think it forms a sound basis for any artist.”

The prize was established in partnership with the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. The NZAFA’s director at the time, Warren Feeney, also commented: “Drawing is so fundamental to making art; gathering information, note taking, testing out possibilities and ideas, recording accurately and speculatively, a record of time passing, evident in the artist moving ink, pencil, pastel, etc, across the surface of the paper.”

Many people, I am sure, would agree that ‘ moving ink, pencil, pastel, etc, across the surface of the paper’ is essential to a drawing.

The prize has now been awarded eight times:

2013 AO Folded Moire Drawing by Monique Jansen. A drawing by pencil on paper that was then folded to create an optical illusion.

2014 Observer by Douglas Stichbury. A a charcoal drawing on paper of a man absorbed in using a piece of equipment.

2015 The Floor We Walk On by Gabrielle Amodeo. Not a drawing. The artist described it as “rubbings of the entire 942m floor-space of the house,” creating a floor-print.”

2016 The Catastrophe by Hannah Beehre. Not a drawing. Blotches of Indian ink on paper, with some tea stains because ‘she was drinking a cup of tea over the paper and accidentally dropped the tea bag on it.’ Some claimed to discern shapes of frogs, mice and bats in the work.

2017 State Block by Kirsty Lillico. Not a drawing. ‘Salvaged’ carpet cut to the floor-plan of a 1940s apartment , then partly hung, partly draped on the floor. According to the judge, it ‘challenged the conventional idea of what drawing can be.’ Apparently, the work also ‘questioned the failure of privatisation to solve the current state housing crisis’.

Parkin admitted Lillico’s work would not have been his first choice as winner of the prize, felt the piece met the competition requirements. It was “still lines, at the end of the day”. “It certainly stretches the drawing concept … somebody has taken a knife, and started a line and taken it for a walk.”

2018 Long Echo by Jacqui Colley. Not a drawing. Aluminium etched with acid and black oil pigment.The artist said it “mimicked the colonisation of the now mechanised land”, and referenced Māori rock drawings.

2019 Every Valley by Michael Dell. Might be a drawing. Charcoal on canvas. The artist said that it represents Pigeon Valley, near Nelson.

2020 Forward Slash by Poppy Lekner. Described above - not a drawing. Lekner had ‘worked with typewriters previously, and created Forward Slash the day before entries closed.’

Seventy-six finalists were exhibited in 2020. By my count, over forty of them cannot really be considered drawings. Apart from the overall winner, seven of the 10 merit prizes of $500 were not drawings.

Some of these ‘not drawings’ were ingeniously constructed. Simon Attwool’s Home, which received a merit prize, was made from ‘charcoal collected from a burnt out house screen printed on paper mounted on 1176 matchbox trays.’ Julia Humpfer’s Runners – Beginning Taxonomic Collection was ‘recycled pantyhose stretched on MDF.’ Morag Stokes’s Just Dicking Around 2 used ‘graphite and Chinese ink applied to Yupo paper with extra-large ribbed condoms.’

Hey, I do get it. Either most of these artists are taking the piss, or they seriously believe that they are at the cutting edge of contemporary art. Artists can have fun with art; they can challenge boundaries; thay can confront viewers. But I can’t help but feel sorry for what has resulted from Chris Parkin’s desire to promote the value of drawing.

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