James Sutherland and Dr Jeremy Mayall have created What are the Chances, the only collaborative entry, and one of four from Hamilton among the 51 finalists, in the National Contemporary Art Awards.

Both are highly creative people and their complementary interests have seen them work together on a variety of projects.

These days, with a doctorate in philosophy (music) from Waikato University behind him, Mayall is research leader at Wintec's school of arts. Sutherland is director of culture at Hamilton Boys High School. But the pair met many years ago when Sutherland arrived to teach in the school's art department while Mayall was a student.

It was a meeting of minds built around a common creative desire which started with playing in bands.


They completed their first joint project in 2007, followed by Open Home, a work based on random ideas with a group of local actors. James narrated The Birth in 2012, a big multi-media show to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Waikato Blues complete with 15 piece band and pyrotechnics. Then there was Plunge, a multi sensory installation involving multiple artists.

With What are the Chances, 2017 is their second joint tilt at the National Contemporary Art Awards after Flow, an abstract work in moving image and music four years ago.

The entry is based on Sutherland's enthusiasm for filming clouds as they roll across the Waikato and coupled to a sound track by Mayall seeks to explore 'synchronisity' -- the experience of two or more events that are causally unrelated -- and 'apophenia' -- the human habit of finding meaningful patterns in unrelated data.

Both are busy with Sutherland entered in the Adam Portrait Award, a biennial national competition and Mayall working on a project with the British Council film archive.

The 2017 National Contemporary Art Awards attracted 236 entries from Welsford to Invercargill which were whittled down to 51 finalists by this year's judge City Gallery Wellington director Elizabeth Caldwell.

Finalists were selected through a blind judging process where Caldwell reviewed artists' statements, images and optional video works online without seeing the identity of the artist.

"I was faced with a tremendous number of submissions and a great variety of media with the entries -- from jewellery, ceramics and painting to photography and moving image -- the preliminary judging has certainly been a challenge.

"While I'm looking forward to seeing the exhibition, I don't think the task of selecting award recipients will be easy as there is some terrific work."

This is the 18th National Contemporary Art Award managed by Waikato Museum.

The finalists for the 2017 National Contemporary Art Award include 17 entries from Auckland, six from Christchurch and Dunedin and four from Wellington, along with many centres in between.

Other Hamilton entries included Naomi Roche, Tony Nicholls and Mark Purdom.

The winner and merit award winners of the National Contemporary Art Award will be announced at the opening ceremony on Friday, July 28 at Waikato Museum. The exhibition will open from Saturday, July 29 until Sunday, November 5.

All of the 2016 sponsors have returned this year and the winner will receive $20,000 from the major sponsors, Chow Hill and Tompkins Wake.

Three merit awards of $1000 each will be awarded from the Friends of Waikato Museum, Random Art Group and David's Emporium.