Artists and art lovers from across the country converged on Collie Art Gallery on Friday, 2 March, for the announcement of $50,000 Collie Art Prize. It was the Gallery’s night of nights with a specially invited list of guests including Dr Stefano Carboni Director of the Art Gallery of WA.
The winners were decided during the week by a panel including Dr Carboni, Caroline Lunel, curator from Bunbury Regional Art Galleries and Artist’s Chronicle publisher Lyn DiCiero.
The judges admit they were all quite surprised at how quickly they came to their decisions agreeing that the overall standard of the work presented was very high.
“I think we can say we very quickly came to an agreement as to which ones are the top three. We had a fourth as well, but I think that all three of us zoomed quite easily on the top ones.” Dr Carboni said.
The artist awarded the main prize of $50,000 at the opening event on Friday night was Cairns-based Torres Strait Islander Brian Robinson whose linocut print, By Virtue of This Act I Hereby Take Possession of This Land, was the standout among the 42 works in the finalists’ exhibition.
“It’s a strong composition and technically beautiful, he addresses the theme of identity very clearly and in a very direct yet simple and effective way. His subject matter is still very relevant to Australian society” said Caroline Lunel.
“It’s also interesting because of its reference to the beginning, the colonial past through the image of Cook but with a very contemporary take as to the ‘invaders’. So basically he links in a very direct way past and present showing that not much has changed,” added Dr Carboni.
“Robinson has opened up the theme of identity with a modern, tongue-in-cheek, yet powerful and thought-provoking interpretation of European possession of Australia, and conveyed his intention in a clear and concise manner” explained Ms DiCiero.
They agreed that the artist has made his point in a non-aggressive way with humour ‘that hits the mark.’ The picture features a very clear reference to Captain James Cook using his well- known portrait at his maps surrounded by indigenous patterns with images of space invaders in the upper part of the work.
“Brian Robinson addresses issues that are obviously very strong for Aboriginal people but in a way that is non-confrontational, direct and immediately apparent.
The reverse colour of his face, which is therefore black, is interesting. And the way the work is executed, clearly he’s mastered the linocut technique,” said Dr Carboni. “The whole composition is beautifully balanced.” agreed Ms Lunel
The two $5,000 Rotary Club of Collie prizes were awarded to Darlington artist Alistair Taylor for his Synchronymity (96 Alistair Taylors) and Sarah Smith for her work ‘Cotton Candy’.
Smith is a young artist who studied art under Collie Art Gallery’s Chairperson Trudi Curran, who made sure she played no role in choosing the finalists or winners, being well away from the action at work at Collie Senior High School.
Dr Carboni describing Taylor’s work said, “This is a very intriguing work, which really comes to life through the artist’s statement because it’s about lost identity in Facebook: he lost his own page and searching for it found out that there are 96 other Alistair Taylors on Facebook. The work, which is compositionally quite good, depicts the identities of all 96 Taylors in miniature portraits painted on aluminium. It’s beautifully done as well. The grid composition also means that there may be so many more Alastair Taylors around while the “real” one, the artist, has lost his identity. It’s a creative and accomplished work.”
“It really reinforces that idea that he’s just one of many. I like the idea of the miniature because also makes him seem insignificant in the whole scheme of things as well,” said Ms DiCiero.“He really took the time to paint each painting really well,” added Ms Lunel.
The judges were delighted to learn that their other choice was the work of an emerging young artist who grew up in Collie. “We were quite impressed by the artist’s statement, which really pulled it all together. It’s an attractive work and beautifully drawn. The charcoal section, I think in particular is very, very good. It’s clearly something that she thought about very carefully in order to enter this competition” said Dr Carboni.
The drawn and painted work on paper depicts a young woman whose elements of identity are reflected in the glasses she wears. Dr Carboni was impressed to learn how young is the artist and said Sarah Smith has a promising career in front of her.
For more information, contact the Collie Art Gallery on 9734 2921.
Images: Brian Robinson, By Virtue of This Act I Hereby Take Possession of This Land, Linocut, 72.3 x 45 cm (left); Alastair Taylor, Synchronymity (96 Alistair Taylors), acrylic on aluminium and board, 79 x 120 cm; Sarah Smith, Cotton Candy, Charcoal, Watercolour, gouache, acrylic, ink, wax pencil and coloured pencil, 110.6 x 124.4 cm (bottom right).