Barry Pearce Head Curator Australian Art AGNSW and judge of the inaugural NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize on the winning painting by Euan Macleod “Murwillumbah X 5″.”I must confess that in judging this prize I was torn between the winning work and a couple of other more delicate pieces. However at the end of the day, the winner for me touched the spirit of Constable, who was so important to the evolution of pleinair and impressionist painting in the 19th century. You can almost feel the weather in this ensemble through its sense of direct engagement with nature. And to cap it off, there is a muscularity of effect in the overall composition which I feel would make it a fine acquisition for the Parliament House collection. The standard and the sincerity of the entries in general was high, making it a tough call.”Speech made by Anne Ryan Curatorial Advisor (AGNSW) at the opening dinner
The great nineteenth century father of plein air painting, Frenchman Camille Corot advised his compatriot and colleague Camille Pissarro to “Go to the country – The muse is in the woods”. And to the woods he went, creating some of the most beautiful and influential plein air paintings of his day, and inspiring generations of artists who followed him to find their inspiration directly in nature.
Corot and his fellow artists of the Barbizon school had a major influence on Australian artists, such as our very own Impressionists of the late 19th century, Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, who were devoted to painting out of doors. Together, they established in their paintings a new understanding of Australian light and landscape that still resonates with us today.
There is nothing like the emotional power, intimacy and immediacy that can be encapsulated in a plein air painting, which by its very nature is contingent on immersing oneself in the landscape and capturing the fleeting, transitory effects of nature.
There is a humble honesty about plein air painting that I find endlessly engaging, and exciting.
The thing that becomes immediately evident to me in this exciting new prize and exhibition at Parliament House, and that heartens me so much, is the number of artists who are still painting outdoors in NSW, and to such a high standard.
For some of them, plein air painting is their principal method of working, while for others it is a private aspect of their practice, but in the context of this prize and exhibition, it is brought to the fore. For artists today, their subjects for plein air painting have expanded beyond the bush to include pastoral and urban environments, plainly evident in the works on the walls here tonight.I have been delighted to be involved in the inaugural NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize, in the capacity of curatorial advisor. I extend my congratulations to the 37 artists whose works have been selected, and my sincere thanks to all those who entered the prize. Plein air painting has a great future in this state, and so too, I think, does the NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize.