A work of 'ominous beauty' wins inaugural Stan and Maureen Duke Gold Coast Art Prize - James Guppy

Gold Coast City Art Gallery
1 December 2007

Left: Smoke Signals 2006 Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 180cm x 180 cm

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Judge Anthony Bond of the Art Gallery of NSW commented:

"James Guppy is an artist who has followed a very personal direction, often painting very small but intense paintings with surreal qualities exploring human dramas. The body would often appear under threat from various forms of painful invasion. This new work is on a grand scale compared with much of what we have previously seen and the figure has given way to a sweeping cloudscape. The billowing vapors seem almost toxic suggesting an apocalyptic vision of climate change yet at the same time it is a scene that strongly appeals to a romantic tradition in western painting. The British 18th century painter John Martin comes to mind, in particular a grand landscape from the Tate collection in London."

Bond went on to say,

"Guppy has offered the Gold Coast a major example of his work - for while many more famous artists sent minor pieces to this exhibition, which however good, do not show us their work at its best.

While it is great that they entered at all, lets hope that in future they, like Guppy pull out their best. Having said that, I genuinely believe that this is the best selection of works I have seen in any prize exhibition anywhere."

The work is a large painting of clouds and Guppy writes:.

"For the last few years I have been exploring the unease shadowing our lives. The news on our screens and the special effects in our movies are filled with clouds. Clouds erupt from disaster after disaster: smoke clouds from burning buildings or raging bushfires, clouds of dust and debris from volcanoes and exploding munitions, clouds of water from cyclones and tornadoes.

Hidden behind, beneath or within these clouds is an approaching menace. We don't see the torn bodies and dismembered lives; just the ominous beauty of these billowing veils shrouding Armageddon.

Over the years I have often painted people floating; not with the weightless ecstasy of a Chagall lover but rather a rootless inability to remain connected to the earth. With these works I wanted the audience floating so the paintings needed to be large, to fill the viewer's vision, to create the sensation of being up there in the clouds, immersed in the seductive chaos and disruption."

This is the inaugural The Stan and Maureen Duke Gold Coast Art Prize, however the Prize itself began in 1968. It has been known as the Conrad Jupiters Art Prize since 1990 and retired surgeon Stan Duke has taken on the sponsorship of the prize through his foundation.

Guppy has not only received the $10,000 first prize but his work has also been separately acquired for the Gold Coast City Gallery Collection.