Let the Gladiatorial Games begin…


(Above, top, l-r) The ACT Burleys, The Ref and HG, The NSW Molongolos. (bottom) The incomparable HG Nelson with the CLAW Trophy, WIN TV’s Jessica Good, and Art Monthly’s Deb Clark.

Well it got hot and sweaty down at the ANU Exchange when Teams ACT and NSW strapped-up and went head to head in a battle to the death for the inaugural CLAW Trophy last Saturday afternoon. In an arts version of State-of-Origin-meets-Iron-Chef  two teams of extreme artists took their craft to the absolute limit of what’s probably legally acceptable in a public place – and you’ll never see a sexier set of cauliflowers, we kid you not.

Running on for the ACT (Burley Bastards) was ceramicist (muddy) Bev Hogg, and sculptors Hannah (Hoon) Hoyne, Tony Steel, Rosalind Lemoh and Dan Stewart-Moore. 

NSW’s (Molongolo Mongrels) fielded designer Tom Skeehan, textile (fluffy) artist Bronwen Sandland, ‘woody’ Jono Everett, and sculptors Ellis Hutch and Steven Holland.

It was a really funny afternoon’s entertainment courtesy of HG Nelson, Jessica Good and Deb Clark who kept up a running commentary on what can only be described as an epic 2 hour art-off; with art historic references flying thick and fast – and surely every  art movement known to man represented at one stage or another, if only for a fleeting nanosecond…

Megsie was the Ref for the day and, armed with the rules of engagement, she found herself seriously busy handing out penalties across the paddock for all manner of nefarious infringements and subterfuge. At one stage the Burley Bastard’s were able to work their way out of the sin-bin with a very credible group enactment of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,  and a highlight of the comp had to be Tom Skeehan’s penalty presentation of The Birth of Venus – Botticelli woulda been proud.

Hoon Hoyne sported a fantastic set of manly love muscles, and Tony Steel got himself totally plastered in an incredible demonstration of the lengths artists are willing to go for their craft. It was one of those kind of days.

But in a final twist the fierce competition melded into a collaborative piece called “No Borders” – in which the souls aboard the good ship NSW were pulled to safety and sanctuary by the caring hearts and hands of the ACT(!) It was a whimsical piece of heart-tuggin’ societal aspiration, in anybody’s language – and a brave public stand given the current menace of Little Johnny’s sedition and small-t-terrorism sensitivities.

The commentators/judges consequently declared a draw….(but one suspects that the crowd was secretly disappointed that there wasn’t a little more blood on the ground…)

And the Gang? Well the Gang was torn – because while it is our want to champion the rights of the underdog and the down-trodden, nonetheless there was something a tad…what, soft-cock perhaps?….about the whole happy ending thing.  Yes, yes, yes…we know, we know. There are no winners in the arts – but sometimes, you know, ya gotta give the mob what it’s baying for, and on the day it was most definitely hanging out for a bit of biffo. Maybe next time it should go into extra time and the teams can have one last shot at emulating a classic arty tableau – something Ivan Durant or Damien Hirst, perhaps….

Check out the mayhem on


 The CLAW Trophy, by the way, was made by Megsie – a lost wax cast crystal ‘crab craw’ (Blackwood’s crystal, mais naturellement.)

Of course the biggest accolades really belong to Su Hodge’s Canberra Arts Marketing hard-yakka-crew-on-the-ground: Events Co-ordinator Lia Tajcnar and Stage Manager Bernie (Bernd) Weise, who were responsible for the all-important foundation (and clean up!) work. Two unsung heroes if ever there were.

For a full critique of the “State of Belonging” competition, and more info about ongoing Canberra Living Artists Week activities go to


2 thoughts on “Let the Gladiatorial Games begin…

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