Glenfiddich Artist in Residence Contest – interview with Curator Andy Fairgrieve

In conjunction with the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, Glenfiddich exhibited the works of the selected finalists of the Australian Artist in Residence Contest. It was the first time the Contest had been opened to Australian residents who were welcome to use any array of mediums which include, but are not limited to, print, photography, animation, performance and installation.

The judging panel lead by Glenfiddich Artists in Residence Curator Andy Fairgrieve and including the Sydney Contemporary International Art Fair Advisory Council, made up by renowned Australian actress Rachel Griffiths, former Sydney Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull AO, Sue Kato, Mark Hughes, Nick Tobias, Dr Gene Sherman and Evan Williams.

The judges were so impressed by the calibre of the entries they selected seven finalists instead of the originally planned five. The final seven included Joan Ross, Cameron Robbins, Marc Standing, Luke Storrier, Liam Benson, Deb Mansfield and Troy Emery.

Joan was chosen as the winner as her body of work not only demonstrates her technique and skill as an artist through her hand painted prints and digital animations, but each of her works tells a unique story about Australian colonisation. Her use of Hi Vis Fluro is a feature throughout her work which is something she noticed an influx of after 9/11, and it is according to Joan “alien to the landscape and a metaphor for colonisation.”

Joan Ross_beautifulbizarre_006Joan Ross, “I Have Your Cake and I’m Eating it too”, Hand painted digital print.

Joan Ross, “BBQ this Sunday, BYO”, Digital Animation

“Given the incredible standard and quality of the seven finalists, it was never going to be an easy task to choose just one to join our residency program next summer at distillery, however I feel we have an outstanding artist and personality with Joan,” said Glenfiddich Artists in Residence Curator Andy Fairgrieve.

“Her carefully composed works in both print and video are not only visually stunning but deeply thought provoking. Given her artistic concerns surrounding appropriation of land through colonialism and the environmental issues she subtly addresses, I know she will find a rich vein of source material to inform new works once she sets foot on Scottish soil next summer. I look forward to welcoming her to the Glenfiddich Distillery next year.”

Since the Glenfiddich Artists in Residence Contest began in 2002, Andy has mentored over 100 artists through the distillery doors, each one of them always seeing the distillery with a unique view.

The residency will take place in 2016 where Joan will have the opportunity to live and work for three months at the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown, Scotland alongside artists from Scotland, India, China Taiwan, Canada and Korea.

Born in Glasgow, and growing up in Australia, Joan is influenced by the landscape and its connections. Her current work is based on British colonisation and first contact in Australia and the ongoing effect of this on Indigenous Australians. Joan hopes to keep this conversation open with her video animations based on early colonial paintings.

“I am very excited; the Glenfiddich Artists in Residence program is such a great opportunity. I’m really looking forward to getting back to and reconnecting with my roots and discovering more about my heritage along with the chance to explore the Highlands. I have only been back once and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape,” said Joan Ross.

“Being in a completely different environment and living and working in the distillery space will enable me to not only get stuck into my work but also provide me with a totally different source of inspiration.”

Joan’s love of nature and attraction to land and landscapes is predominant in her work. This and her connection to Scotland are the main reasons applied for the Glenfiddich Artists in Residence Competition.

“I felt so welcomed by all the Glenfiddich team; everyone was so warm and friendly. Meeting Andy was the best, he was so keen and enthusiastic and I had a really great time hanging out with him.

“He really inspired me, and was very supportive of my ideas. I was particularly taken with his knowledge and interest in the politics of the highlands and I am very excited about learning more,” said Joan.

For more information visit http://www.glenfiddich.com/ or http://www.williamgrant.com/

For further information on Joan’s work visit http://www.joanross.com.au/



Prior to the announcement of the winner I had the pleasure of spending some time with Andy discussing the entrants and the history of the Genfiddich Artists in Residence program – over a Glenfiddich of course!

Andy-Fairgrieve_beautifulbizarreAndy Fairgrieve | Curator, Glenfiddich Artist in Residence Program


What are your thoughts on the quality of the entrants?

I think they’re fantastic! We had around thirty entrants, which is a good response as this is the first time that we have done this in Australia. We originally planned to have five finalists but I really appreciate the work of the jury, they settled on seven due to the quality of the work presented. We have some great, great artists here and I look forward to spending some time with each of them over the next few days as part of the process of selecting the winner.

Looking at the work is one thing, but it’s always nice to speak to the person, to sort of get to know them as well.

How long has the residency program been going for?

The program started in 2002, so this is coming up to the end of our 14th year, so it’s a long-term project. I think that reflects on the family ownership of William Grant & Sons, it was very much a family initiative, to get involved with the arts and do this arts program. The idea of asking the artists to come to the distillery, to extend the highland hospitality because you have great confidence in the location of Glenfiddich as a unique and special place – not just the spirit you produce, but the people and community that make it as well.

It’s like bringing the artist into the bosom of your family, allowing them to explore and reflect their experiences back at you in their creativity.

What other countries have you held your Artist in Residence competitions in?

Over the first 14 years we have had over 100 artists in residence at the distillery coming from around 20 different countries. This past summer we have had artists from China, Taiwan, India, Korea, Canada, Spain, the UK and Mexico. We started the program just working within Europe, but by 2005 we thought – we’re a global brand; we’re sold across the world, why not extend our art program as well? It’s fantastic when new countries come on board, I’m really excited that Australia is getting involved as well. So many Australian and New Zealand artists in the past have written in asking how they can get involved but unfortunately they couldn’t.

The artists you have selected cover a very broad range of techniques and media, painters, sculptors, photographers, etc. How do you go about judging when you are comparing quite different fields of art?

That’s when it moves beyond the art to include aspects of personality. We ask the artists what they would do when they are there (at the distillery), that’s a good yardstick to help gauge that. We don’t want to be restrictive in any sense in the media people are working in or the projects they want to do. The Canadian artist this year, well he built an aeroplane, a functioning aeroplane – which we then flew and crashed!

It was the idea, the insanity of trying to build your own aircraft from a 30 year-old set of plans out of Styrofoam and bits of aluminium and wood – and to do it in your house! The hallway was taken up by the wings, inflammable materials in the kitchen next to the toaster, all sorts of things. He put it all together and we got it off the ground; that was the ultimate aim of the project, to get it up off the ground.

I’m very glad that it’s broken because it’s a widow maker!

How long is the residency for?

It’s for three months. We fund it for three months as we have to work within the visa restrictions of the UK government, which unfortunately means that if an overseas artist comes for three months, well after the three months they have to go. But they can come back as visitors, which in the past they have – this year the Spanish artist stayed on an extra month. That’s a nice thing; if people want to stay on a little longer you know you’re doing something right. One Canadian artist ended up staying an extra ten months because she found it a good place to work.


For all artists residing in Australia – keep an eye on beautiful.bizarre – we will let you know when entries open for the next Australian Glenfiddich Artist in Residence competition!


Troy Emery_beautifulbizarreTroy Emery

Liam Benson_beautifulbizarreLiam Benson

Joan Ross_beautifulbizarre_003Joan Ross

Luke Storrier_beautifulbizareLuke Storrier

Deb Mansfield_beautifulbizarreDeb Mansfield

Marc Standing_beautifulbizarreMarc Standing

Cameron Robbins_beautifulbizarreCameron Robbins



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