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Out of the box means out of the studio for art society awards


It’s the flagship event on the Royal Queensland Art Society Brisbane’s calendar and this year one of the organisation’s Biennial opening gala will leave the gallery for the first time.

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The Biennial’s opening gala has previously been held at the RQAS’s Petrie Terrace Gallery but this year it will be held on September 12 at the Paint Factory, a burgeoning arts village at Yeronga, and will include the awards ceremony for both the Queensland Figurative and Young Artist awards.

The Figurative Award comes with a cash prize of $10,000 and has attracted hundreds of visitors to the gallery in previous years.

“We had to start thinking outside the box because of the COVID restrictions because we can only have a maximum of 56 people in the gallery and the Queensland Figurative openings usually attract about 150 people,” RQAS Brisbane branch president Marg Thomas told InQueensland about the decision to move this year’s opening to the former Taubmans paint factory site.

“It was put to us that perhaps we could come to a deal with the Paint Factory because they are trying to get that established as an artistic community.

“So the Paint Factory are now our principal and as part of that sponsorship and partnership they’re preparing that space for us to be able to have an art event there.

“They already have a number of artists who have studios there and they were prepared to come to an understanding with us to enable us to use the space and they would carry out the sort of work required for them to be able to conduct art events there.”

Thomas said there would be more than 800sq m of space allocated for the launch at the Paint Factory, which meant it would be easy to adhere to necessary social restrictions.

“It will also open up the RQAS to a different genre of people,” she said. “I think a lot of people are quite interested in the Paint Factory and what it’s doing so it’s sort of promoting both of us, really.

“The gala is being opened by Tim Fairfax and food and refreshments will be served in a COVID-safe environment and we are having entertainment, as well as an auction, a silent auction and an art raffle.

This year marks the fourth time the Queensland Figurative – a non-acquisitive visual art award for two-dimensional works in which the human figure is integrated into the composition – has been held and Brisbane-based artist Anton Piche has taken out the top prize in two out of three of the previous competitions.

Thomas said Piche has won twice for two reasons: “Number one he’s very good and number two, it is something that requires the artist to integrate the figure into the composition, and not a lot of people achieve that to the same extent that Anton does, he’s particularly good at figurative drawing,” she said.

Piche was born in French Algeria just prior to the commencement of the Algerian War of Independence in 1954 and he has called Australia home since 1988.

“Due to circumstances that are totally independent of me, circumstances of my life, I’ve found myself in different places because at an early age, we lost a country,”  Piche told InQueensland.

“The colonial empires were crumbling, which was a good thing in a way because the way the colonies were organised and ruled was absolutely terrible.

“But if you’ve believed all your life in the country and the place where you were born, when you lose that, there is a physical place where you cannot go back anymore – you still belong to it but you cannot go back there.

“So it’s like having lost something very important so I’ve been trying to find it somewhere else.”

That eternal and unrequited search for belonging has resulted in Piche living in a variety of different locations across the globe and he said that sense of longing has helped inform his work.

Brisbane artist Anton Piche. (Photo: Van Dan)

“I have lived on four different continents and in six different countries I speak four different languages and that certainly enriches you,” he said.

“One day I picked up a pen and I started drawing, I don’t even think I knew why, I just could do it, and I liked doing it, so I did it. Then slowly, you start thinking, ‘Oh, look, I can do that. That’s something I’ve got that belongs to me – I can use it if I want to.”

Piche said the work he has entered for this year’s Queensland Figurative award “also has a lot of abstraction”.

“It is figurative but there are also a lot of abstract-looking elements in the painting that are suggesting a lot of things that are not necessarily very clear to me, or to people will see them but I’m very proud of the painting,” he said.

Piche said he was more motivated by earning the respect and approval of his peers than he was by the potential financial rewards on offer.

‘”When you’re alone in your studio and you’re working and you see the paintings, sometimes you say Is this worth doing or not? What am I doing here?’  So, when someone comes along, someone that’s one of your colleagues, or your peers and gives you a prize and says, ‘This work is worth winning a prize’, it’s so reassuring.

“It is very pleasing, very reassuring and that is, those two things that the more important part of it for me.

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t want my money, but that’s not the purpose of why I do it.”

For more details about the RQAS Brisbane’s Biennial exhibitions, or to purchase tickets to the opening gala, visit the RQAS website


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