Eyes wide open and on the prize that’s the pride of Brisbane

With the Brisbane Portrait Prize finalists soon to be revealed, the founder of what in now one of the country’s richest art prizes reflects on what we will see this year

Anna Reynolds shows off last year's Brisbane Portrait Prize to BCC Councillor Vicki Howard.

Anna Reynolds shows off last year's Brisbane Portrait Prize to BCC Councillor Vicki Howard.

Anna Reynolds

Having looked at each one of the 450 entries in the main competition for this year’s Brisbane Portrait Prize, I’m left amazed at the skill, creativity and thoughtfulness of every one of the entries.

It’s hard not to be moved by the stories of love, hope, resilience and triumph.

It’s clear that the prize prompts artworks of all sorts. Some artists are prompted to create to express ideas about personal life stories, while others celebrate the love and affection they have for friends, family or colleagues.

Some are motivated by process and materiality. Others seek to interrogate traditional ideas of portraiture. Also, First Nations artists often address issues of identity, cultural connection, the importance of land and the impact of colonisation.

What we see in the entries is a snapshot of contemporary concerns. This year, themes include navigating life as a father or a mother, the fragility of life, the nature of memory and the impact of screens on young people. These have all been explored in detail, although not all have made it into the finalists’ exhibition, which is on at the State Library Queensland Gallery, from August 3 to November 10.

Many more artworks will be on display at the Salon des Refuses at Petrie Terrace Gallery from August 8 to September 2 and there will be other BPP Showcase exhibitions in Brisbane City Council libraries and elsewhere around the city.

More broadly this year, we see artists look to the past and the future. Some reference the greats of Renaissance art while others critique how AI impacts the creative realm. Some depict it as a threat and others employ it as a tool that extends the creative conversation.

There is a strong return to traditional painting, with some artists referencing techniques and characteristics of the great masters. Some echo these techniques, while others challenge the conventions of portraiture and draw attention to the very act of looking, questioning the artist/sitter relationship and challenging ideas of status and visibility.

Many artists directly engage with the issue of Artificial Intelligence and its threat to creativity. Because there is digital work included in the BPP, many artists already use software that includes elements of AI in design programs like Photoshop. Even some traditional artists use Photoshop to work on compositions and colour testing as part of the creative process.

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To address this, and to put some transparency around the issue of artists’ copyright, BPP altered its terms this year to allow for some AI to be used, if disclosed, and if the artist has copyright of the final work.  Generative AI can only be used where the copyright remains with the artist, so the data set the program uses needs to be either out of copyright or be the artist’s own work. It is heartening to see artists so directly engage with this conversation.

BPP 2024 will also feature many emerging artists – some working at the more experimental end and some revelling in traditional approaches.

Portraiture continues to fascinate artists, art supporters and the general public. It can open our eyes to a range of possibilities, exposing new areas of understanding about how others see each other and the world.

Anna Reynolds is a former journalist, media and arts consultant. She is the founder and chair of Brisbane Portrait Prize and chair of Brisbane Festival. BPP finalists will be announced on July 20. The winners will be announced on August 2 and the finalists’ exhibition will be on at the State Library of Queensland from August 3.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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