2018 Geelong contemporary art prize

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2018 Geelong contemporary art prize

The 2018 Geelong contemporary art prize is a long-standing signature event that assists with the development of the Gallery’s collection while fostering Australian artists and contemporary painting practice in general.
From the late-1930s, the Gallery has awarded acquisitive prizes variously for paintings, watercolours and prints, sponsored by a variety of individuals and corporate supporters. In the mid-1990s, the Geelong Art Gallery Foundation established a contemporary painting prize—the Geelong contemporary art prize—with the aim of showcasing the work of contemporary Australian practitioners and enriching the Gallery’s permanent collection of contemporary Australian art through the acquisition of a winning work.
The past 12 years has seen the gallery acquire works by Kate Beynon (2016), Rob McHaffie (2014), Paul Ryan (2012), Tim McMonagle (2010), Nadine Christensen (2008), Sam Leach (2006) and Juan Ford (2004), just to name a few.
Earlier winners of the Gallery’s painting prizes are now amongst some of Australia’s most highly regarded and notable artists such as John Young (2000), Dale Frank (1999), Janenne Eaton (1998), Lindy Lee (1997), John Nixon (1996), Dick Watkins (1991), Peter Tyndall (1989), Richard Larter (1980), Janet Dawson (1978), Peter Booth (1970), and Sydney Ball (1967). Their winning works have become some of the most significant and much-loved paintings in the Gallery’s collection.
This year the $30,000 acquisitive award goes to Melbourne artist Andrew Browne for his evocative, narrative-rich, and skilfully executed painting, The awakening 2017. An outstanding example of Browne’s established practice, the painting brings together a number of his enduring interests including landscape, natural phenomena, light, and the anthropomorphic potential of the spaces we inhibit.
In his artistic statement for the painting, Browne explains, ‘The awakening suggests a scenario as if on some cusp between dreaming and jolting consciousness. Less an unfolding narrative, and more a loaded and theatrical collision of symbol.’
“It’s kind of a malevolent kind of dream like piece; it could just be a bad nightmare,” he adds. “You know where you wake up and you’ve come out of a dream and you’ve got all these funny symbols that don’t fit together that wake you out of the dream… it’s like a jolting quality.”
Working on the painting for a number of years prior, it was purely the timing of the acquisitive prize and biennial exhibition that encouraged Browne to submit his piece.
“When the entries were called for that prize, it just seemed like the ideal context for it. It hadn’t been exhibited before, and it has been in my studio for some time while I was carefully building the picture,” Browne explains. “It just felt everything fit; it was exactly the right picture for the right context, the right scale for a gallery contest, and it was my first time entering the competition.
“I was more curious though,” he continues. “A few people had seen it in my studio and a few didn’t like it particularly, and others really did so it inspired people to engage with it whether that be negatively or positively, and I thought that was really interesting.”
Working primarily in paintings, but also in photography and graphic mediums, the 58-year-old Melbourne artist has exhibited widely over the last three decades in both solo exhibitions and group shows. Along with been shortlisted for a number of prize exhibitions, Browne also has his works represented in a number of significant Australia-wide university and corporate collections, as well as many public and institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Australia and the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney.
As his first work to be acquired by the Geelong Gallery, Browne is humbled by the outcome of entering his painting in the acquisitive award and biennial exhibition.
“For an artist like me in their mid-career, it’s just a really nice affirmation that there’s still an audience and there’s still an appreciation for what you are doing,” Browne admits. “As a young artist, you just jump in feet first and work really hard and establish a presence and the line of enquiry in your work, and then often you get to middle age and it’s just days, weeks, months and years in the studio, working away, and something like this – an acquisition prize like this – it just reaffirms that you are on the right track and there’s an appreciation and some regard for the work.
“Often, even if you are selling work, it’s something like this where there’s really stellar judges like Justin Paton [Head Curator, International Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales], Rebecca Coates [Director, Shepparton Art Museum] and Lisa Sullivan [Senior Curator, Geelong Gallery] who are highly regarded people in the art world,” he explains. “That’s an added bonus; these people look at a lot of art and whose whole lives are thinking about art, and they award you a prize… it’s just great.”
Selected from over 550 entries from around the country, Browne was one of 36 works by leading and emerging Australian artists who were shortlisted for the 2018 Geelong contemporary art prize. With a focus on the diversity of contemporary painting practice in Australia, the exhibition features works across a broad range of subjects, genres and stylistic approaches such as landscape, the built environment, portraiture, still-life, social commentary, and abstraction from such artists as Natasha Bieniek, Seth Birchall, Amber Boardman, Andrew Browne, Jon Campbell, Nancy Constandelia, Yvette Coppersmith, Ann Debono, Troy Emery, Emily Ferretti, Patrick Francis, among others.
“Everyone will have their favourites and a reasonable percentage of people would say there are others ones I’d award the prize to but that’s the nature of debate, especially with art being so subjective.”
The 2018 Geelong Contemporary Art Prize collection (including the 36 shortlisted works) will be exhibited until August 19 at Geelong Gallery. Free entry – open daily 10am to 5pm.