THE 10th anniversary of the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards has begun with the announcement of one of the largest shortlists in the event’s history. Forty-one artworks by 35 artists will go on show at the Art Gallery of Ballarat in August. They will vie for prizes worth more than $50,000 including the State’s richest Indigenous art prize, the $30,000 Deadly Art Award.
Announcing the shortlist, Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards were established by the Victorian Government in 2005 with the aim of raising the profile of Victoria’s unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts sector and creating career development opportunities for artists.
Over the past 10 years, the Awards have showcased more than 280 artworks including works by acclaimed and internationally recognised Victorian artists such as Bindi Cole and Reko Rennie. Featured artists have gone on to have their work acquired by collectors and galleries such as the National Gallery of Victoria, the Koorie Heritage Trust and the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Their involvement has also led to special commissions, gaining representation and exhibition opportunities across the country.
Alongside emerging artists, this year’s shortlist includes three former winners of the Deadly Art Award, Jenny Compton (2014), Ray Thomas (2013) and Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown (2012), who have each credited the Awards with supporting them to take the next step in their careers. The shortlist includes artists from all regions across the state and features works across a range of mediums including traditional pokerwork, painting, sculpture, photography and digital video works.
The 2015 judging panel comprised well-respected artist and first recipient of the Deadly Art Award, Vicki Couzens and Caroline Martin, Manager of the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum. At the launch were artists Marlene Gilson (Gordon) and Pitcha Makin Fellaz (Ballarat), a group of artists who had tried to enter the awards previously but were knocked back because the awards were only for individual artists then.
“That’s why we did the horses head in the bed, it was like a revenge sort of thing to say indigenous people always collaborated when they did paintings and things like that and why can’t we go in as a group?” said Robert-Shane Rotumah.
“Then we done this (Barman Cull) and we displayed it at Daylesford and we won first prize and then they wanted it here (Ballarat Gallery) and it came back and they bought it and it’s created an opening for group paintings.” The Pitcha Makin Fellaz are Ted Laxton, Myles Walsh, Adrian Rigney, Peter-Shane Rotumah, William Blackall, and Thomas Marks. Marlene Gilson is well known and respected artist, her entry, Bunji’s Final Meeting Place, Race Meeting at Lal Lal, stems from her love of the area. “Lal Lal Falls is such a sacred site, it still has birthing trees, fire trees and artifact sites,” she said. “They had a racing meeting there from 1862 to 1938 every new year’s day and the people would come on the trains from Melbourne and Geelong and any way they could get there. “It’s one of my favourite places, that’s why I wanted to paint this and then when I found the story with the horse racing I thought yeah, that’s what I’ll do because it’s such a beautiful place there.”
The Victorian Indigenous Art Awards are open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists who live or were born in Victoria. The 2015 Victorian Indigenous Art Awards will be announced on 8 August 2015 at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. The Awards exhibition will run from 9 August to 20 September. A full shortlist is available at www. creative.vic.gov.au