Artists capture imagination in pieces entered in Gold Award
THE Gold Award - Queensland's richest art prize - opened at Rockhampton Art Gallery last Friday to great success with NSW artist Imants Tillers taking out the gong for the $50,000 prize.
The award includes the work of eight of Australia's most exciting young, mid-career and senior painters and is a must-see for lovers of contemporary art. Here is the low-down of four of the finalists.
Abdul Abdullah is the son of a sixth-generation Australian and a Malaysian Muslim.
He considers himself as an "outsider among outsiders" and it is this perspective that informs the portraits from the Monster series; five of which are currently on display in the Gold Award.
He writes: "Each subject, including myself, is a young Australian from a Muslim background. They do not bear any Islamic signifiers other than their Arabic names.
"I am interested in the perception of young Muslims in the contemporary multicultural Australian context.
"While we may not bear any external indicators, it is the name that defines us as the 'other', and presages many assumptions and misconceptions about what we represent."
Peter Atkins is an avid collector, filling his studio with both exotic and mundane objects, acquired through overseas travels, and in his hometown, Melbourne.
Everything from a Peruvian robe to football socks can be a source of inspiration. He then distils the essential elements of chosen objects through colour and shape in a process he describes as "ready-made abstraction" - a reference to Dadaist Marcel Duchamp and his use of unlikely everyday objects elevated to pieces of high art.
Three large works in the award from his series Jazz are inspired by original jazz album covers. Atkins connects his art making process to the very nature of the music genre itself with each sharing "the same core fundamentals - intuition, composition, appropriation, arrangement, spontaneity, and, improvisation".
Del Kathryn Barton creates fantastical worlds that take inspiration from the natural environment, but also express the vast potential of the imagination.
The experience of growing up in the Hawkesbury region near Sydney and being surrounded by bushland and wildlife informs Barton's practice, and her entry sapling seems to be set in a metaphysical landscape, somewhere between the real, and the imagined.
Barton references the energy and experience of her childhood hallucinations, recalling "fields of energy and unravelling of perception".
The image occupies a compelling, melancholic space that seems to hint at the real possibility of environmental catastrophe.
Brisbane-based artist Julie Fragar explores the dramatic story of Antonio de Fraga, the first of her family to arrive to Australia through her series of five paintings: "In 1850, at the age of 12, Antonio's father - unbeknownst to his mother - sent him away on a whaling ship to avoid conscription. Antonio and a crew of adult men chased sperm whales around the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans until they were shipwrecked off the Malay coast.
"Living in Malaya for several years, Antonio departed on a second whaler, this time becoming shipwrecked and captured by the cannibals of Fiji. The rest of his crew were 'penned like chickens' and eaten.
"Antonio however, finding favour with the local king, was released and cared for by missionaries who brought him to Australia."
Fragar pictures this ancestral story using a technique that seems to layer transparency over transparency, and frame within frame.
The grotesque and aggressive experiences of the journey, but also the story of maternal loss is shown with visceral candour.
The extraordinary works are on display until August 31.