Weather was a popular topic at the opening of the Norvill Art Prize in Murrurundi on Friday night.
Snow on Higher Ground was the title of the $15,000 winning landscape, guest speaker Phillip Adams gave a chilling warning about the dangers of climate change and outside it was a cold, dark, stormy night in the Upper Hunter.
Over 100 art fans came to view the 52 finalists chosen by Nellie Dawes and Bruce Tindale of the Michael Reid at Murrurundi gallery and Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre manager Brad Franks.
Murrurundi Arts Council president Mandy Archibald welcomed the return of Mr Adams, who had opened the first Norvill Prize in 2000, introducing him as one of Australia’s 100 National Living Treasures and – after 54 years in print - the country’s longest running columnist.
“Art is the only way the human species will survive, if indeed we will,” said Mr Adams who had just returned from Canberra where he gave the keynote address to a conference on ‘The Future of Homo Sapiens’.
He said that the discovery of art was equally important as the discovery of fire over two million years ago.
“Landscapes come roaring in quite recently in the history of art,” Mr Adams said.
He urged the crowd to value and protect real landscapes, in a region full of views like “a Fred Williams, an Arthur Boyd”.
“We should not only rejoice in the talent of painters but what they are honouring,” he said.
“We love land, that’s why we’ve fought back to protect it from coal mines.
“When we congratulate the winner we congratulate this fragile thing called landscape.
“Look carefully, we may be the last generation that ever painted them.”
Mr Adams praised the prize patron Peter Norvill and described him as “one of the great Upper Hunter eccentrics”.
“I think he deserves his own pyramid on death,” Mr Adams said.
The top winning painting chosen by Hawkesbury Regional Art Gallery and Museum director and Masterchef contestant Kathleen Von Witt, was by John Morris who is head of the School of Art in Newcastle.
Another winner there on the night was Louise Jenkins in her acrylic faux fur to complement her acrylic painting - Kildare Granite – a rock not far from Tenterfield, where she lives.
“I’m very excited,” Ms Jenkins said.
“It’s an honour to have been accepted and see my work with other finalists.”