New South Wales Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize

The role of artists and the important work they do in representing our lives should be recognised and supported. There is nothing better than to have paintings from the Plein Air Exhibition hanging in the foyer of the Parliament for all to see, including students, young people and visitors to the Parliament. Those paintings show the beauty and wonder of the Australian landscape. What a wonderful thing it is for people to be able to venture outdoors to paint in natural light, which is so different to artificial light. I am finding quite interesting how different the world looks through the filter of artificial lights rather than the clarity of daylight and country air.

The Winner of the $20,000 Plein Air Acquisition Prize 2011 is Noel McKenna – ‘My Backyard’

The Plein Air exhibition is a representation of New South Wales through the eyes of artists who have taken the opportunity to venture outdoors and to paint in natural light. This style of painting dates from the late nineteenth century to modern times. I commend the former Labor Government for establishing this acquisitive art prize and the Parliament for supporting it. In society we love to celebrate those artists who gain recognition, particularly those who rise to overseas notoriety. We claim those artists as our own and we celebrate them reaching those high marks but do we recognise the strength and contribution that they make? Only through acquisition prizes do many of them have the ability to continue their work and to purchase the expensive materials that are required to produce good artwork.

Acquisitive prizes have a twofold outcome: they support the artist and they provide the public with an ongoing treasure of works representing who we are and our nature for all to see. I note that Virginia Judge was involved in establishing this prize in her great commitment to the arts. I look forward to this Government continuing to support the Plein Art Prize and expanding its support for the arts. Last week the Local Government Cultural Awards for the Local Government and Shires Associations were held in Parliament House—an issue about which I will speak further later today. The winner of the Essential Energy Art Prize—formerly Country Energy—who is a country person, talked about how often artists feel unappreciated. It is through acquisitive prizes that artists feel acknowledgement: having the opportunity for their work to be shown and perhaps appreciated enough to win a prize so they can sustain themselves.

The life of an artist is a hard one. It’s wonderful that this type of practice is being strongly encouraged through schools and adult education. In my area local environment groups are joining with artists and sharing their experiences in natural environments: conservationists are learning to paint and painters are learning about the nature. This is art being embraced and shared as an important part of our way of life. Not only does it represent the beauty of our world; it also allows people to learn and to appreciate more about life. I think it’s delightful that the paintings are exhibited in the foyer of Parliament House. Each time I walk through the foyer I stop to look at another painting and enjoy that work.