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Byron Shire
March 4, 2021

Arts Classic a disappointment

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This year, once again, the Byron Arts Classic disappoints. While it is commendable that an opportunity is given to people to participate, show what they can do and put their work out there, both the criteria for judging and the hotchpotch and arbitrary way the work is displayed and hung abysmally fail to show any real insight, depth, taste, sympathy as to the issues at hand.

Year after year repeatedly work that is enclosed, technically overcooked, predictable or clichéd is given preference or award.

It absolutely astounds me that the judging can be so blinkered and lacking in subtlety or the ability to recognise or understand core creative principles and energies, considering the kind of choices they are repeatedly making.

The question then comes to mind – who judges who the judges are? And on what basis are these choices made? That is, who is the person/s making this choice and do they really know what they are doing?

I think this is absolutely relevant to the question – probably the most significant question of all. Because the judges’ choices that are presently being made don’t seem to be translating into any quality in a judging system that actually works – very simply and clearly – or reflect, in any real way, what constitutes quality in work. The whole resonance and success of this event hangs on this issue. Until this issue is addressed, the event will remain as a haphazard, amateurish and boutique event without much meaning or relevance.

Surely in Byron Bay, with the kind of cultural resonance and vibrancy we have here, we can do better than this. If real focus were put on it we could attract a much wider and more robust participation and a much better standard of work. As it is, anyone with any real understanding of visual language, originality or art ideology just doesn’t bother – because the event, as it is run now, fails to embrace this.

So, as a result, scores of people who really have something adventurous, stimulating, original or structurally different/subtle to offer don’t bother. Or if they do, they simply miss out or don’t get a look-in because of the superficial, cramped and conservative nature of the judging and the careless and indifferent potpourri method in which the works are displayed.

As it is, at the moment, some of the most potentially exciting and inspirational work in Byron Shire is simply being excluded by the enclosed nature of the event.

If we are to have an event like this, then let’s get things off the ground and really get something of quality happening. Art/creativity by its very nature is about challenge, adventure and risk. It is about the power of ambiguity; about culture, identity and signature. It’s about radical review and fresh air. We need to up the ante because at the moment the situation is simply embarrassing, almost depressing.

We have an enormous number of people who visit Byron Bay just to look at the colourful and ‘different’ nature of the culture here. With a bit of effort and imagination, we could actually make this event one of the best in the country if we put our minds to it. Why don’t we give it a try?

Ron Curran, Facilitator, Dynamic Drawing Byron Bay


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  1. Angus McDonald, Byron Arts Classic judge, three times Archibald Prize painter (2012,2011,2009) and awarded Brett Whiteley Scholarship (1994). Paul McNeil, Byron Arts Classic curator, respected Mambo artist, founder of Art Park and producer of other very cool, creative things. 2,000 local residents and visitors viewing the 2014 Byron Arts Classic over six days. Ron Curran, self-appointed local art critic. You be the judge.


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