16 May 2024

Cooktown artist's RAW expression wins people's heart (and vote)

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Jane Dennis

Well-known artist and Cooktown School of Art Society president Jane Dennis has won the People’s Choice Award for her work at the recent RAW exhibition the Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery. Photo: Supplied.

Using an Uber Eats bag as a head is not a usual artistic practice for Jane Dennis, but the outside-the-box creativity has won her the People’s Choice Award at the recent Cooktown School of Art Society (CSAS) RAW exhibition.

RAW, which was on display at the Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery, encouraged artists to be just that – unrestrained and unconventional in their work – to fully express themselves with no fear.

Ms Dennis said she was “chuffed” after winning People’s Choice gong for the first time.

“As a professional artist, I tend to have what I would call my standard art, which I know sells, so it’s kind of like my bread and butter,” Ms Dennis explained.

“For me, this exhibition was fantastic and I loved it, because it allowed me the freedom of creating something that’s not for sale.

“It was just a genuine expression of the playfulness of art, and not having anything too serious.”

Ms Dennis, who is also the president and secretary of the CSAS, said the idea was inspired by an Uber Eats order in Cairns and the Cooktown art group’s life drawing class.

“I went down to Cairns and got some Uber Eats and next thing you know, I’m collecting paper bags and I thought ‘my god, I have another obsession’,” she laughed.

“We have a very beautiful collection of models at the Thursday night life drawing class, so I wanted to draw them on the paper bags.

“The bags are actually a combination of four separate models.”

READ ALSO Gallery gets RAW for first Cooktown art event of 2024

Although the People’s Choice Award is only done at the society’s smaller exhibitions, Ms Dennis said there was an enormous amount of raw creativity showcased in the gallery.

“This is the first time we’ve done [RAW] and there were over 70 pieces, which is outrageous,” she said.

“It’s about three times as much as we would normally get.

“The plan with this exhibition was just to encourage people to be really creative and express themselves, so it was such a beautiful range of work and there was something for everyone.”

The artist said she would love to host the RAW exhibition regularly to help other artists feel the same freedom of expression she did.

“I didn’t have to worry about pleasing anybody and it was just pure expression, so I’m really wanting for other people to be in the same boat,” Ms Dennis said.

“Since I’ve taken over the gallery, I realised that we need to grow new artists and we need to have a cultural future.

“Artists are loners, so it’s sort of trying to reach out to them and saying ‘hey, we’re your people, come and join us’.”

Jane Dennis work in RAW

Ms Dennis’ prize-winning piece at the RAW exhibition was a combination of life drawing models on paper bags she had collected. Photo: Supplied.

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