How John Glover continues to transform the Tassie landscape

by Nathan Woodland

(photos credit: The John Glover Society Inc.)

Evandale During the Glover Prize.JPG

You probably know The Glover Prize as one of Australia’s most prestigious landscape art prizes. And you’re right. Established in 2004, it is awarded annually for the work judged the best contemporary landscape painting of Tasmania, with the winner taking home $50,000 and a bronze maquette of colonial artist, John Glover, whose legacy is celebrated through the prize.

But the prize has become something so much more to the Tassie community and, in particular, to its home, Evandale. In a word: transformation. Over its 14-year history, the Glover has stirred some rather fabulous change.

Transforming Evandale

As soon as the event was introduced to Evandale in 2004, the community ardently jumped on-board, with locals welcoming the Prize with open arms. The community didn’t need any time to warm to the idea. Organisers were pleasantly gobsmacked to see people and traffic flooding the normally sleepy town of just 1,000 people. The first exhibition saw 2,500 people through the doors.

In 2009, it was reported that 106,700 people visited Evandale – an average of 292 people per day. Each day of the Glover Prize, however, 1,550 people attended the Glover Prize exhibition – five times Evandale’s typical daily visitation.

Attendance and popularity of the Glover Prize exhibition has consistently grown each year and is now recognised as a highlight of the Australian arts calendar – receiving national media attention as well as patronage of over 9,000 visitors for this year’s event.

Transforming the art scene

Perhaps the biggest drawcard for the Glover Prize is its venue. Held each year at the Falls Park Pavilion (home to the Evandale Market every other weekend of the year), it has the effect of stripping pretense and welcoming a broad spectrum of art enthusiasts.

The Glover Prize has provided many Tasmanians with their very first interaction with a wide range of art, and not only by paying for a ticket and having a looksee. Volunteers and committee members work tirelessly each year to develop an exciting experience for Glover Prize visitors. The passion surrounding this art community has blossomed, telling a remarkable story of how community spirit has grown and fostered something that is nationally recognised and appreciated.

Transforming the understanding of 'landscape art’

The Glover Prize aims to explore the idea of ‘landscape’ art as defined in its broadest sense and encourages an ongoing conversation about what that might be. Art is a conversation and, at its core, expresses an idea as much as a visual form. The tradition of John Glover and the landscape is to depict, usually realistically, the picturesque scene in front of the artist. Today, however, contemporary visual artists tend to depict the psyche of the landscape – often from an individual artist’s point of view and experiences.

This change is reflected in both the artworks featured in the Glover Prize and in the community’s understanding of ‘landscape’ art. The artworks that have entered and been exhibited in recent years are a lot more abstract, surreal, and expressive.

This transformation of the community’s understanding of ‘landscape’ art is supported by the Glover Prize’s approach to including the next generation. The Glover Prize strongly believes in art education for school children, with over 1,000 attending the 2018 exhibition for free on specially developed education days during which time the exhibition is otherwise closed to the public.

Transforming the Glover Prize

The Glover Prize began as a three-day event over the March long weekend. However, due to increased interest, it now spans the long weekend, the Tuesday, and the following weekend. The prize money awarded to the winner has also increased dramatically over the years, starting at $20,000 and incrementally increasing until it reached the $50,000 that is on offer in 2019.

The Glover Prize has seen a broad range of artistic interpretations of the words ‘landscape’ and ‘Tasmania’. Entries and finalist artworks have continually branched out from the traditional view of a landscape into more abstract and surreal interpretations. This diverse and eclectic range of art is reflective of the increase in interest the Glover Prize has received from artists. Having received 75 entries in its first year, this number of entries has grown every year to more than 400 entries received in 2018.

With so many inspiring changes happening in art communities both locally and nationally, it’s exciting to see how the Glover Prize will change and develop over the next decade. If there’s one thing that’s certain, though, it’s that the Evandale and Northern Tasmanian community will happily be coming along for the ride!

The Glover Prize 2019 Exhibition commences on the March long-weekend, running from Saturday the 9th of March, 2019 and continuing until the end of the following weekend on Sunday the 17th of March, 2019, at the historic Falls Park Pavilion in Evandale.

Entries for the Glover Prize 2019 close on Friday 25th January 2019