This years Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards were just fantastic.
I haven't been to the Awards in five years. I used to go every year, but I became disillusioned and decided not to go anymore.
For me it had become more of a political competition. It seemed to matter who was the most politically correct rather than keeping the sole focus on the standard of art. For me it's always been about the art and the culture. That's the way we've always focused our interest.
The Awards just seemed to lose their way for a while. In the last one I saw five years ago, the political inviting was so evident in what was up on the walls. It was a weak show. A lot of people hadn't bothered even entering. The Awards as they were then no longer inspired me.
It used to be such an exciting event. The first few years were absolutely staggering. The quality and the depth of the artwork just inspired everyone. Everyone who was anyone went there. Over the years it became more political and it became about whether the work was produced by an art center or through an agent or who that agent was. It just lost its direction and I think it was very evident in the standard of work.
This time, while it hasn't completely put all those problems behind it, they are certainly making good progress. Organisers have narrowed the field down so instead of having a couple of hundred artworks, they've come down to under a hundred. That in itself helped fine tune the exhibition and the standard this year was very high.
It’s always going to vary from year to year because of who the judges are, and they’ll all have their own take on what they'd like and what deserves a guernsey. There were some good judges this year and I think it was a good show. I found it was inspiring again.
There was a bit of a buzz, and I think in some ways what was even more a new development over the last few years is the salon de refuse. This is where they had all the other artworks that didn't quite make it into the finals category. That work was a very high standard. They were absolutely stunning. Why some of them didn't make it, I don't know. It's something you would have to ask the judges.
So yes, it was a tight show and I'd certainly go back again. My congratulations go to the organisers for steering the Awards in such a positive direction.
I’d like to see the politics ironed out even more. I think it’s a shame that a lot of quality artists don't even bother putting in entries. I think that means they've lost a little bit, and maybe quite a lot. Some of the best artists aren't there and I do think that the Awards and the artists themselves suffer a bit because of that.