Carmen Legues with her ‘Dancing Daffodils’, which won Best Watercolour. A42_0322

Janice Orchard (judge) and Best in Show winner Fiona Bilbrough stand with her work Grandmas Treasure. A40_0322

TO THE joy of locals and visitors, the Leongatha Rotary Art & Photography Show is underway, opening to the public on Saturday and running until February 5.

Approximately 530 professionally hung works are on display, with a high standard and wide variety evident throughout the exhibition.

While serious consideration was given to not proceeding with the show in the current COVID environment, art show board members elected to go ahead with the event.

Rotary Club of Leongatha president Mary Dortmans explained the rationale behind that decision.

“Right up until Sunday night we thought we might cancel and it was a hard decision for the board, but we thought we owed it to the artists because they’ve worked hard to do this and we know they’ve had lots of exhibitions cancelled,” she said on Friday.

It was also felt members of the public deserved the opportunity to decide whether to attend the show.

Winners were announced on Friday evening, with artists, volunteers and South Gippsland Shire councillors among the attendees, and Janice Orchard this year’s judge.

Well-recognised on the art show circuit and with her works featuring in corporate and private collections around the world, Janice joined the art show scene as a 16-year-old.

She amused Friday’s audience by recalling her first time at the Leongatha Art Show as a young and inexperienced artist in 1986.

“I stood in this hall as a novice artist, hanging my work in an art show for the first time, and I was so convinced of my genius and talent, and I was gutted when my genius wasn’t recognised,” she said of her failure to catch the judge’s eye.

Janice is these days accomplished in oils, watercolour, pastel, and acrylic, with her diversity undoubtedly beneficial in judging a wide range of artistic mediums and categories for this year’s show.

Initial impact, composition, competent handling of the medium, use of colour and tone, and presentation, were the criteria Janice used in selecting winners.

Korumburra’s Fiona Bilbrough claimed the top honour, with her still life Grandmas Treasure, painted in oil, being named Best in Show.

As well as being impressed by the standard of works on display, Janice commented on the professional way they were displayed.

Rotarian Bob Hickman and one of his art students Lynn Fisher tackled the substantial task of hanging the works of 162 artists in a manner that gelled, having just three days to do so.

While works were categorised into groups, such as birds, or flowers, positioning them appropriately was not straightforward.

“There’s every different shape and size and all the frames are different but we try to make it cohesive so it looks like it’s curated and the work hangs together well,” Bob said.

The Koonwarra resident exhibited five of his works in the show, with his acrylic Squeaky Beach snapped up by an eager buyer.

Art show committee chairman David John said the event’s reputation has continued to build over its 45 years.

“We’re getting a good name for ourselves as a premier art show,” David said, noting the standard of the works rises each year.

Professional artist Glyn Taylor, who picked up a prize for his acrylic work Golden Light, is not a regular at art shows, usually exhibiting in galleries.

However, the Leongatha resident always makes an exception for his hometown event.

He loves seeing lots of works from the region and enjoys watching people’s art improve from year to year.

South Gippsland Shire Council Mayor Mohya Davies praised the courage shown by organisers in electing to hold the show and noted they are doing so as safely as possible.

“I wish the show every success,” she said, acknowledging the many of hours of hard work volunteers and artists put into making the event a reality.