ARTISTIC BUSINESS: Artist Ray Rixon and his sponsor First National Real Estate's Caroline Campbell. Picture Jamie Williams.
ARTISTIC BUSINESS: Artist Ray Rixon and his sponsor First National Real Estate's Caroline Campbell. Picture Jamie Williams. Jamie Williams

New Year: New Work show reawakens the creative spirit

IT IS never too late to try something different as former High School and TAFE art teacher Ray Rixon found out when he was asked to be part of the latest exhibition at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery.

Ray is one of 50 local artists of all styles and ages to take part in New Year: New Work - a snapshot showcase of artists around the region. The exhibition has also an example of what can happen when the whole community comes together with local businesses being asked to sponsor an artist.

"This really showcases the depth of talent in this area," Ray said.

"There were only 50 but the Gallery could have come with another 100 quality contributors."

And while Ray is no stranger to the Gallery and to art in the region, thanks to a 40-year career as an art educator in the area, the medium used in the pieces was something new for him - plywood.

Gallery Curator Jo Besley said the exhibition includes 50 brand new works all started on plywood but then taken in vastly different and creative directions.

"Each artist was given a 50cm by 50cm square piece of plywood and free rein to create a piece," Jo explained.

"I believe visitors will be delighted by the talent and ingenuity on show. The local artists involved work in many mediums and are at various stages of their careers, some are emerging while others have national reputations.

"In its scale and scope, the exhibition underlines just how important local artists and creatives are to the economy and social landscape of the Coffs Coast community - which is timely as we move forward with our new Cultural and Civic Space."

For Ray the challenge of taking part in such an all-encompassing exhibition (which includes two of his former High School student and several others he has taught in other capacities) was too big to turn down - as was painting on the marine-grade wood.

"I'm a painter but I have never painted on plywood," he explained.

"I mostly work on canvas and paper but plywood is a very different surface. Canvas has a lot of give and I love that drum-like feeling."

Although he is an experienced artist and art educator Ray, who is currently also working on a major collaborative event set to hit the gallery in 2021 , left his - New Year: New Work project, not quite to the last minute but close.

"We had lots of lead-in time but I didn't really start it until six weeks before," the fan of palette knives and heavy paints said.

"I thought I would do the painting and then use my new artistic toy to gouge bits out but I finished the painting and thought I would leave it."

However instead he went out and bought two more pieces of ply to continue experimenting on this new surface and now has more works on ply in the pipeline (though he promises he hasn't abandoned canvas).

The exhibition is now open at the gallery and with more than 50 businesses taking part, Jo hoped the new exhibition would raise significant funds for the Friends of the Gallery so they can continue to support the acquisition of new works or assist with exhibitions and events such as 'Still: National Still Life Award'.

Ray said with several of the businesses buying the works they sponsored, he hoped it would forge closer ties between the business and artistic communities.

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