Mr Basil Sellers AM addressed the crowded Opening Night prior to the winner being announced, saying that his passion of sport and art came to fruition with this art prize. His well established aim is to link Art to our nation's love of sport.
The innovative winning work, with colour and sound, shows fresh-faced athletes performing rhythmic routines in a singularly archaic gymnasium, displayed on a wide screen. The athletes wear simple, unbranded clothing; there are no space-age fabrics or lifestyle Lycra. There are no treadmills, work our machinery or video screens, only wooden beams, elegant movements and an almost folksy atmosphere.
The athletes seem to be enjoying what they are doing; they are connected with each other and there are no grimaces - neither are there any iPod ear-phones in sight. It seems to me to evoke a golden age of the gymnasium.
The artists, Gill and Dupont, wrote in the catalogue: "One should not observe this video production on its face value. These seductive visual effects have a darker side. Familiar to us all are the orchestrated political rallies and staged event openings of major sporting events. The synchronisation of individual performers into a single entity was integral to fascist aesthetics in the 1930's and '40s."
They also allude to the alluring visual effects of Nazi propaganda films as a sinister subtext in sport, and they quote the late philosopher and author Susan Sontag who wrote in 'Fascinating Fascism' : "qualities that are valued in sport – control, submissive behaviour, extravagant effort, endurance of pain – are also foundations of militarised societies."
The artists use this award-winning piece to reflect back to us Australia's national affection for sport and our tendency to embody our collective character in national teams, and allude to the danger that this carries with it the risk of mob politics.
To my mind, this type of analysis of our culture, showing what we take for granted from another angle, is the true calling of artists of all types – whether they be visual artists, writers, humourists, musicians or political cartoonists. However, some of the other very modernistic and stark works that were short-listed are perhaps a little to 'un-subtle' for my own personal, ageing taste.
The exhibition of the fourteen short-listed entries of the 2010 Basil Sellers Art Prize runs until November 7th at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, (Swanston Street, Parkville), which is part of the University of Melbourne.
My wife, Delma, and I have been honoured to be guests of our long-term benefactor, Basil Sellers, at each of these Basil Sellers Art Prize opening nights. He has sponsored our Basil Sellers Art Centre in Moruya and the biennial $15,000 Basil Sellers South Coast (Moruya) Art Prize and our Basil Sellers Tweed Art Studio in Tweed Heads.
Basil Sellers is a wonderful supporter of our Art Ministry, which forms an important part of our respite mission, Well-Being Australia. In his private collection, he has a number of my own works, including the trilogy on Sport Anguish. All my art is signed Tronson du Coudray – a historic version of my name; but my agent has also dubbed me the 'Missionary Painter'.