Brisbane Rotary Art Spectacular – exhibition reflections

By | June 22, 2016

As I approached the Central Plaza tower, the lively lights pouring from inside beamed with enthusiasm. A line of eager visitors lined up outside, all elegantly dressed and keen to get in. My attempt to avoid the line-up by waiting outside turned out a failure – the crowd only grew larger, and I lined up for longer.

It was immensely encouraging to see this kind of support from the Brisbane audiences when it comes to visual art. Part of this readiness to attend may have been the association of this exhibition with a great charity: the event raises money for children with autism in partnership with the AEIOU Foundation. But it is evident that the ability of art and community to work to mutual benefit is very much alive!

In its 37th year, the Rotary Art Spectacular brought together some of the best contemporary artists in Queensland. Organised by three Rotary Clubs in Brisbane, the committee invited artists to submit their work to be considered for inclusion in the final exhibit. The result was a great spectrum of artists: from abstract pieces of Vivienne Searle, to David Hinchcliffe’s entrancing urban landscapes, to the balance of mesmerising still-life compositions of Lisa Christensen.

While sculptors were outnumbered by a long-shot, it in no way diminished their quality. The 3D artists on show displayed a rivalling tour de force to the painters. Zygmunt Libucha returned with abstract sculptures after winning the 3D Award at last year’s event. Mela Cooke, Karl De Waal, John Morris, and this year’s winner, Carolyn Watson, have brought forward sculptures that challenged the viewers’ perception and aroused curiosity with their imaginative works.

The sheer volume of pieces in this exhibition demonstrates the depth of talent in Queensland (sometimes flying under the radar!). With 297 artists represented and almost 600 artworks available (exhibited at the venue and through the online catalogue), the scale of this exhibition was impressive.

One would think that an exhibition of this scale done in a foyer of a public building would have a challenge maintaining a gallery atmosphere, but that was not the case! The massive ceilings of the Central Plaza One foyer were counteracted by the intricate maze set up through the foyer, directing the visitors through the multitude of works. The visitors were rubbernecking through the labyrinth, sometimes running into friendly wait staff with loaded trays of food. Looking for a particular artwork could be accompanied by running into unexpected twists in your path and encountering an occasional dead end. But wherever you went – ample quantities of artworks were always guaranteed!

The highlight of this Art Spectacular was indeed the spectacular fruit. Oversized persimmons, citrus fruit, and honeydew melons were enough to make anyone salivate. (And, perhaps, reach for the food!) Photographic realism of these works reflected artistic craftsmanship at its highest. Needless to say, the work received the highest honour of the evening depicted fruit: the ‘Best of Show’ prize went to Anne-Marie Zanetti’s Mandarin 12:

Ann-Marie Zanetti

For me these types of exhibitions take the art out of its traditional setting – the gallery. It can shakes up our perception of the art, allowing its experience in a different environment. On the other hand, such volume in a condensed space acquires encyclopaedic value. It can be challenging to absorb the value of individual pieces as intended by the artists in such an environment. But if you are looking for a piece to freshen up your living room, this kind of exhibition is a great place to make an art purchase. Every art lover should be supporting living artists. And exhibitions like this one reward the work of current artists, while at the same time supporting our community. Really, there should be more of them!

With that thought in mind, I am bookmarking the event’s website and looking forward to the 38th Rotary Art Spectacular.

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