2016 National Contemporary Art Award Exhibition

My painting The Oil Fields (image below) has been included in the 2016 National Contemporary Art Award. The exhibition of the 34 finalists’ work has been on show at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato since early September and ends soon, on 4 December.


The judge and curator for the award this year was Misal Adnan Yildiz, the current director of Artspace NZ. In his Judge’s statement Adnan noted that, “Today, from Orlando to Istanbul gender politics are still relevant. The questions around immigration, integration and refugees are urgent. ‘The end of neoliberalism’ is not just a title for an article printed by Monocle magazine; it is a reality that surrounds us. We are seeing the end of things and the new beginnings every day, every moment, every second, more and more… “, and ” I am proud that the exhibition of finalists for the 2016 National Contemporary Art Award is based on questions we can share with the rest of the world.”

I assume this sociopolitical inclination was a big part of the reason my work was selected from the hundreds of entries. My mandatory statement accompanying my entry (and printed on the label beside the work in the gallery) reads, “The Oil Fields lists names of active oil fields in Aotearoa, alongside a painterly depiction of a crude oil spill. The painting is part of an ongoing series recognising that in the early twenty-first century we are still fully immersed in the Oil Age.

Despite the emergence of the digital era, the exponential growth of renewable energy around the world, and escalating climate change, world oil consumption has continued to increase over recent decades.

We are drilling for oil deeper in the oceans than ever before, and extracting unconventional forms of oil such as shale oil and tar sands oil. It is inevitable that the Oil Age will come to an end as the world transitions to more sustainable forms of energy, but how long will it take?”

Overall, having work in the 2016 National Contemporary Award has been a really positive experience. I can’t say reading the largely negative EyeContact review by Peter Dornauf gave me much pleasure though. I’m not sure why EyeContact would choose a conservative critic to review such a show, but as I said in my social media, I’m claiming Dornauf’s trumped-up, derogatory labelling of my work: Neo-Casual Propaganda. It’s quite catchy.