Student art exhibition among the best


Art teacher Henry Smith inspects some of the paintings in the end-of-year exhibition.

Art teacher Henry Smith inspects some of the paintings in the end-of-year exhibition.

Charles Darwin University art teacher Henry Smith said the end-of-year student art exhibition this week was “probably the best” in the 22 years he has been teaching the subject in Alice Springs.

“We’ve had a number of strong exhibitions over the years, but this one really is excellent,” Mr Smith said of works by about 60 students, which went on display for four days in the Witchetty’s Gallery at Araluen.

The level of craftsmanship and technical skill among many of the 235 water colours, sculptures, ceramics, drawings and prints also drew praise from long-term Central Australian art lover Russell Goldflam, who formally opened the exhibition.

“At CDU in Alice Springs students learn technique, which to my mind is foundationally important,” Mr Goldflam said.

“They learn how to mix colour, how to wield a stick of charcoal, how to wedge clay, how to carve, how to paint, how to draw, how to weld, how to fire. How to see.

“What we see on these walls include works which lay bare the process of getting to grips with technique: quickly sketched studies, experiments en plein air, rough and ready pots that test the texture and limits of their materials, as well as highly accomplished, confidently resolved mature works.”

Mr Goldflam said there were three reasons to study visual arts in Alice Springs.

“Firstly, we are in the heart of Arrernte country from which has sprung Western Desert Art, the most dynamic, vibrant and most vigorous art movement this nation has seen. Secondly, Alice Springs lies at the heart of beautiful country bathed in light so austerely intense it scorches your eyeballs, and demands to be rendered. And thirdly, Alice is a town of story-tellers, a community of yarners and teachers and ratbags and mavericks and artists.”

He said some of those “wonderful yarners and ratbags” happened to be talented artists and teachers who had taught art at Charles Darwin University – Iain Campbell, Rod Moss, Deb Clarke, who have left; and Henry Smith and Suzi Lyon who have stayed on.

“Suzi and Henry have nurtured and nursed hundreds of budding, blooming, blossoming Alice Springs artists over the past two decades,” he said. “This show is an insight into the extraordinary contribution to our community of these two patient, persistent, indefatigable and insistently modest fine artists.”

Mr Goldflam also reflected on changing times.

“This student show is not just an end-of-year milestone, but also an end-of-career milestone, for Henry is retiring and Suzi will soon step down to part-time.

“Others are now needed to step up to keep the wheel turning. These works are an eloquent argument for why it is so important that this occurs,” he said.

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