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Drone aerial of couple on Scenic WalkwayDrone aerial of couple on Scenic Walkway
25 Nov 2019

Exhibiting in Jurassic Rainforest Brings Unique Challenge for Sculpture at Scenic World 2020.

1/2. (L-R) Hany Armanious, Courtney Novak, Margarita Sampson, Sculpture at Scenic World Curator Justin Morrissey.

2/2. Courtney Novak, Curator and Artistic Director of The Lock-Up

Outdoor art exhibitions are increasingly prevalent across Australia’s cultural landscape as the appeal of pairing art and nature resonates with the Australian psyche. This trend is presenting both artists and curators with a range of new logistical challenges outside the traditional realm.

As Curator and Artistic Director of Newcastle’s The Lock-Up, a contemporary arts space within a heritage listed building, Courtney Novak appreciates the constraints of exhibiting in unique locations. However, as the Sculpture at Scenic World 2020 judge explains, an exhibition in the Blue Mountain’s Jamison Valley presents logistical challenges beyond her experience.

“The Lock-Up is a complex space to install in because we are in a heritage listed building and we constantly have to navigate challenging installations, as we literally cannot put a nail in the wall” she says. “When I walked along the Scenic Walkway where Sculpture at Scenic World 2020 will be located, I realised that installing in this space has its own unique challenges, on a  much grander scale.”

“We’re talking about artists having to transport their artworks on a cable car hundreds of metres down into a valley, and then work out how to hang them off a one-hundred-year-old gum tree. It presents really interesting challenges but I think that adds to the intrigue for the audience, wondering what out of the box thinking was required just to complete the installation.”

As Australia’s only art exhibition held in a Jurassic rainforest, Sculpture at Scenic World is a unique marriage of art and nature. Large installations to small scale works are intricately placed among the natural environment, inviting visitors of all ages to embark on a cultural journey that challenges perceptions in exciting ways.

When asked which factors artists needed to prioritise for this outdoor exhibition, Ms Novak said spatial awareness and the elements surrounding a sculpture were critical.

“The biggest consideration artists needed to keep in mind is scale,” she says. “You can have a really large sculpture that dominates in a gallery context, but once you have it outside next to an enormous cliff face or tree, then you’ve got additional factors to consider.”   

Joined on the highly esteemed judging panel by National Art School Head of Sculpture, Hany Armanious, and renowned Sydney-based sculptor, Margarita Sampson, Ms Novak will have the demanding task of narrowing the strong field of 30 artworks to just one for the Scenic World Major Award winner.

Reflecting on what the panel would look for from the winning artwork she says, “There needs to be a good sense of the materials that are used, and in a way that demonstrates the artist has crafted them to a high level. Conceptually, the work needs to be really strong and ambitious.”

Having worked for three years in one of Dubai’s earliest contemporary art spaces, Ms Novak is no stranger to exhibitions that break the status quo. She says the unique location of Sculpture at Scenic World attracts submissions from artists worldwide, keen to push boundaries and explore complex issues.

“When you’re exhibiting in a rainforest it’s difficult not to have an environmental theme,” she says. “There are a lot of works that lend themselves to the environmental artistic narrative of people not appreciating the natural environment that they live in.”

Courtney Novak, Hany Armanious and Margarita Sampson will draw on their wealth of expertise for Sculpture at Scenic World 2020, which will transform an ancient Jurassic rainforest to an open-air gallery from 9 April–10 May 2020.

All exhibiting artists will be eligible for the coveted $20,000 Scenic World Major Award, in addition to the $5,000 Environment Award; the $3,000 Artist Peer Award; the $2,000 Scenic World Staff’s Choice; and the $1,000 Carrington Hotel People’s Choice.

One artwork will also be selected by Paul Brinkman and Sabrina Roesner for the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre Exhibition Opportunity, an additional prize which includes being a feature exhibit at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba.