Now in its 16th year, the Craigs Aspiring Art Prize has more than earned its name as a long-standing part of the Arts community in Wānaka, Queenstown and beyond. In fact, this annual Wānaka event attracts artists from all over New Zealand, and is becoming a nationally recognised art award.
The Craigs Aspiring Art Prize aims to foster and encourage New Zealand artists, providing a platform for them to create, showcase and share their art with the world. The Art Prize is Holy Family Catholic School’s main fundraiser, with Craigs Investment Partners proudly sponsoring the winning acquisition prize of $20,000. There are also a number of merit prizes sponsored by the local community, totalling a prize pool of $30,000.
Guest artist this year was John Toomer, a well established Otago artist who has been painting professionally for over 30 years, primarily with oils. With a well-recognised ‘contemporary realism’ style, John creates stunning Otago scenes and still life subjects, often bringing to life old, run down buildings including homesteads, country stores and railway stations.
This year, over 240 new established and emerging artists from all over New Zealand featured in the exhibition, which took place over three days from 14-16 January, 2023. With such an incredible score of artists and artworks in the largest event to date, judges Bridie Lonie and Dr Louise Garrett were very impressed with the quality and variety of art that was on display.
In the end, Marc Blake was announced the Supreme Winner of the Craigs Aspiring Art Prize for his work, Happy Birthday. A local Queenstown artist, Marc blends the worlds of art and technology, with his final piece being almost entirely digitally printed, save for one small corner painted by hand.
As quoted in the Otago Daily Times, “The Queenstown painter and gallery operator says while the work is quite new for him, using technology in his art is not. It has been the one constant in his practice, underpinning his process throughout his career.
“I’ve been drawing with the computer since I was 9 years old.”
Image: Supreme Winner, Happy Birthday, by Marc Blake.
Jo Loughnan was the winner of this year’s People’s Choice Award for her work Royal Oak Hotel Arrowtown 1948. Kelly Pearce took the 2023 Best Landscape prize with her painting Down At The Farm Looking West; Suzan Kostanich was awarded the Merit Prize for Fasi Lalaga; Aaron Potaka won Best Work Under $1000 for his portrait The Blessed Virgin Mary; and Angela Rowe was awarded the 2023 Best Round Winner for her Golden Oyster (on the smallness of things). There were several other merit prizes awarded: you can find the full list here.
Overall, we count ourselves lucky to have such a prestigious arts event taking place in Wānaka. It’s history in the region serves to enrich the arts and culture scene now and for years to come, giving voice to hundreds of local artists from the Three Lakes region and beyond. Congratulations to all artists for another successful year!
1: Aspiring Art Prize artwork montage. 2: Supreme Winner: Happy Birthday, by Marc Blake. 3-7: Captures of some of the 2023 works from the Aspiring Art Prize Facebook page.