Reflecting on recent Splash exhibitions, I couldn’t help thinking
about what top Australian watercolourist Amanda Hyatt had to
say during the workshop she conducted for WNZ. Amanda, who is
nothing if not forthright, complained about the difficulties of being
a woman in the male-dominated world of Australian watercolour.
One well-known Aussie artist even told her that the only reason she
was successful was “because you paint like a bloke.”
Think of your list of top New Zealand watercolourists. I dare say a
good number of them will be women. The guest artists at Splash 2014
and Splash 2015 were both women, Jacky Pearson and Bernadette
Parsons. The WNZ Supreme Award was won by Bernadette Parsons
at Splash 2014, jointly by Adrienne Pavelka and May Iremonger at
WW1 in Watercolours at Splash and at Splash 2015 by Jimmy Chen
and Adrian Cave. This is not because of any gender equality policy
on the part of WNZ: it reflects the merit of the individual artists
and their work.
Anyway “painting like a bloke” is a misleading stereotype: there
are plenty of strong watercolours painted by women. Indeed,
watercolour as a medium is often erroneously regarded being pale,
weak and insipid. Fortunately the paintings on show at Splash are
starting to dispel this misconception, as evidenced by a number
of comments from visitors to our exhibitions. “I didn’t realise
watercolours could be so strong,” said one visitor to Splash 2015, “I
always thought of them as being pale”.
Maybe the image of “misty watercolour memories of the way we
were” will be consigned to the dustbin of history.