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First Prize winner 2002 Mixed Media

'Room for dreaming'

Artist: Ray Cologon
Home: Australia
Medium: Wood and mixed media

Art Dept Interview

As the winner of your category in the 2002 International Art Contest, being selected by such a diverse group of artists from all around the world, how do you feel?

Delighted! I've been impressed by the standard of works selected in previous years so it's an honour to be in such company. It's also immensely gratifying in light of the fact that the award is juried by an international audience which includes many fellow artists.

Please describe your current works and any plans for forthcoming exhibits.

I've been increasingly absorbed by the idea of art as transcending culture and fashion, and so I have been seeking out timeless and universal perceptions. This has led me towards works which encapsulate ideas about consciousness and energy and humanity in a way which I hope moves beyond local and current trends. Room for Dreaming was one of the first of a series of works I'm developing which are reflections on aspects of the experience of being human.

I am working towards the development of a body of works which bring together elements of the built environment and human anatomy - the 'human architecture' series - with a view to a major thematic exhibition.

If any, in what ways have you seen changes in attitudes towards "art"?

One aspect of the changing of attitudes is that I think that, whereas at one time art was the province of the elite, there is an increasing acceptance of the notion that art is a desirable and even necessary part of human experience throughout society. Public art and gallery art in my home country and in many others is part of the lives of folks from all walks in a way that has not always been the case.

Post-industrial world art has increasing acceptance as a medium through which people's lives and experience are given meaning and depth of reflection. This is a change in the way art is perceived, and one which gives art a new role. Whereas once, art served to document and promulgate existing belief systems (eg in religious iconography), now it has, at its best, a role in the formation and adaptation of our values and beliefs.

Do you think that the fine artist will survive as technology replaces our skills?

Without doubt. The real substance of Art is message and content not medium or method. Technology provides the means but not the content. What matters in art is the human input and the human exchange (ideas, emotions, sensations, insights) and these can only be helped by new technologies.

In a sense, art has been adapting to new technologies for many centuries and has been strengthened at each turn. Technological developments such as the printing press and the camera did as much to enrich art and art appreciation as did the development of the paintbrush. More recent advances which are leading us into the digital age offer even greater promise. Greater diversity and richness and quality of art can be made available and experienced by more people and across more boundaries than ever before, and this will only increase.

What advice could you give to those embarking upon a career as an artist?

Well, first and foremost, I'd say that you need to figure out what is art and what is fashion, and to decide which it is you want to be involved with. Then I'd say be prepared to pursue a vision with or without recognition or reward, because art that is worth doing - and worth seeing - rarely seems to result from the pursuit of either.

Why did you enter the Art Dept contest and what decided your selection for entry?

I wanted to test the direction I'm currently heading on as diverse an 'audience' as possible - to help me gauge the extent to which the ideas and approach may 'resonate' for others. I also hoped that broad exposure for one of my pieces might help me to locate new avenues for exhibition and/or sale of my work. I chose 'Room for Dreaming', because it provides a good indication of the directions in which my work has been developing and evolving.

Is there anything about being an artist that you do not like?

I have to admit that the 'business' of art is tedious, as is the unpredictability of one's income. The necessity to depend on the sale of one work to be able to afford materials and equipment for the next is an unfortunate reality for many artists.

Would you sell your most favourite artwork, or keep it?

Sell it. Once a work is complete, I am ready to move on, and so is it. Art is for sharing and its purpose is to communicate and to enrich and to reach out - and it can't do any of those things if it is stacked in a corner of a studio or locked in a darkened storeroom.

How important was education and training to you?

In a sense, education was more important than training. Skills can be acquired in a number of ways (and new technologies always require new skills), but the perceptions and ideas that come from education are very valuable. Attending art school can be valuable for a number of reasons, not least being the social experience and the confidence it can give you - plus the ability to see yourself and your work in a clearer perspective. The skill acquisition, though useful, is somewhat incidental.

Is there anything in your art career that you would have changed?

Well, it would have been great to be able to focus on art and ideas without the ever present problem of generating an income. But there are few artists who won't say the same.

If you were invited overseas to exhibit your works, where would you like that to be?

I'm open to any opportunities, however I've been looking for openings in the USA because there is an exciting opening up of art utilising the medium of wood - a material which I've long been drawn to (despite its poor acceptance historically as a fine art medium) and I'd like to be able to be part of that in some way.

Are you looking forward to entering the contest for next year?

Yes. It will of course depend on the point my work is at and the suitability of current works for the contest format, but I would like to continue to participate.

Do you recommend use of the Internet for an artist's publicity?

Since art is inherently visual and is concerned with communication, it is hard to imagine a more suitable medium. Despite the haphazard nature of the internet and issues of quality and copyright, I nevertheless believe that a presence on the internet is a good idea for any serious artist.

Would you change anything about how the contest is organised?

The contest is well conceived and the organisation and presentation are very professional. Perhaps the inclusion of additional information and the option for inclusion of multiple photos of each piece would be worth considering - particularly for the mixed media section. One of the issues is that sculpture - an inherently three dimensional medium - is not always shown to best advantage by a photo. But nonetheless, the contest provides a valuable way of presenting work to a wide audience.

How can the Internet be made better for working artists?

At present, although the Internet is an excellent vehicle, the absence of filters makes it difficult for art to be differentiated. This has both a good and a bad side, however sites such as Art Dept help to provide a focus so that over time users will find appropriate 'roadmaps'.

Another limitation is the reluctance of buyers to make substantial purchases via the internet. This too is likely to change as Internet commerce generally gains greater acceptance. It may also be aided by the various escrow and dealer services which are emerging.

A third area of limitation is the image quality and (as noted before) the limitations of the two-dimensional format. However these issues too, will be reduced as bandwidth increases.

In the meantime, it is nonetheless an exciting place to exhibit.

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