Local Artist Erin Dunne with her Bayton Award winning work Songs of Suburbia and Subtropical Poems.
Local Artist Erin Dunne with her Bayton Award winning work Songs of Suburbia and Subtropical Poems. Russell Prothero

Delve in to Dunne's world through her award winning artwork

THE LONGER you look at this year's Bayton Award winning piece, the more you discover.

That was how Rockhampton Art Gallery Board's director, Dr Leonie Gray, described Erin Dunne's piece Songs of Suburbia and Subtropical Poems before announcing her the winner of the 2019 Bayton Award.

WATCH: Young budding artist interviews Bayton Award winner

"The field was very competitive and due to the high calibre of the finalists artworks, the decision of which artwork would be awarded winner was deeply considered,” she said.

"The winning work is accessible to a range of audience groups and communities.

"It has the ability to speak on regional level while being inclusive of broader Australia audiences. It supports discovery and the longer you look at it, the more it gives back to you.

"It is flexible in it's presentation and offers a range of conceptual interpretations and physical presentations. It brings together a number of synergies to our permanent collection. This artwork is contemporary as well as historical.”

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Erin's works is a ink drawing that reaches almost from floor to ceiling, depicting life in suburbia Rockhampton.

It features humans, birds, flora and fauna regularly seen in our backyards.... or front yards.

It tells many stories that the 29-year-old loves from her life.

"The newspaper in the fence is with regards to this lovely thing that my Nanna and her neighbours do,” Erin told The Morning Bulletin.

”Every morning they bring over the newspaper for her to read, which is just so lovely. And then she puts it back in the fence to return it to them. That's where that little reference to The Bully comes from.

"That practice. That very neighbourly thing.”

When asked about the Rockhampton Regional Council logo in the piece, she explained the logo was on her recycling bin where a nearby purple flowering shrubs attracts beautiful butterflies in the spring, which she captured on her phone camera one day and decided to include it in this piece.

She has also including many birds - some very detailed.

"I love the birds,” Erin said.

"I think the birds about animating the space. If you think about the way birds fly and move through space, there's a linear trajectory that follows where they've flown. So I think they are way of activating the sky in the art work.

"They've all got their own personality. They behave differently. And all the birds there come and visit me in my backyard.”

It's not the first time Erin has featured her personal life in her artworks.

An ink drawing of her father driving a ute was one to attract another award - the $10,000 Holding Redlich "Art for Life” Award which is part of the Queensland Regional Arts Awards now on tour.

"He's very patient,” Erin said about posing.

"I've got lots of drawings of mum and dad sitting on the couch, relaxing, watching the television. They are very good at sitting still for me. They also don't usually know that I'm drawing them. That's handy. If you can catch them when they are comfortable.”

It was a proud moment for Erin's parents on Saturday night. They had driven in from the family property which is 40 minutes drive south-west of Duaringa.

”It was very special to have them here especially because they are really the reason I am making work today - all of their support and encouragement to a young person to make art, then as I was leaving high school to study art, which not everybody has the chance to do,” Erin said.

”So I'm very fortunate to have their support along the way and I feel proud that they could be here to celebrate that with me.”

Winning The Bayton Award 2019 adds to Erin's growing recognition and artistic practice. It comes after a stellar 12 months which has included:

Winner, Holding Redlich Art For Life $10 000 Award, Queensland Regional Art Awards, Flying Arts Alliance, Brisbane

Overall Award Winner, CQU Creates, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton

Highly Commended, works on paper, Blackwater SHS Art Prize, Blackwater

Finalist, Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award finalist, Grafton Regional Gallery, Grafton

Exhibited in Utopia Tropicae: The Spirit of the North, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville

Finalist, Marie Ellis OAM Drawing Prize, Project Gallery, Queensland College of Art, Brisbane

Finalist, Lyn McCrea Memorial Drawing Prize, Noosa Regional Art Gallery, Noosa

Finalist, Rio Tinto Martin Hanson Awards, Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum

Solo exhibition House, Rockhampton Art Gallery, Rockhampton   

It was only about 18 months ago that Erin stood down from teaching art full-time at Emmaus College to focus on her own art works.

"I think about the work I produced two years ago for the last Bayton, that would have been in the year that I did resign from teaching in 2017, and that work was a very kind of accurate, figurative representation of Customs House,” Erin said.

”And if you think about the work that's downstairs (in the gallery now) that I've done two years later, it's completely different. It's got qualities of the illustrative, it's very expressive of a personal aesthetic that I really hadn't established back at that point (2017) so I think that I feel comfortable now with the visual voice that I've got.”

Erin said she has drawn inspiration from Australian artist and Archibald prize winner Brett Whitely during her growth over the past two years.

”I think if people knew Brett Whitely's work and looked at my work, they would see immediately the connection,” she said.

”His work is done in ink and it's black and white; very linear like mine.”

Hosted by Rockhampton Art Gallery, The Bayton Award is an initiative of the Rockhampton Art Gallery Philanthropy Board and Rockhampton Regional Council. Valued at $17,000 of cash and prizes, The Bayton Award is open to artists of the Central Queensland region.

Judged by the Rockhampton Art Gallery Philanthropy Board and Rockhampton Art Gallery Director, The Bayton Award celebrates the diversity and excitement of visual arts in Central Queensland. 

Chair of the Rockhampton Art Gallery Philanthropy Board, Dr Leonie Gray said while the field of 25 finalists are of a very competitive due to the high calibre of the finalists' artwork.

The decision was deeply considered and assess the finalist artwork again an industry criteria of quality, reach and impact, and for all of these criteria their delivery to regional community, arts industry and artistic practice were assessed. The decision was closely considered between two finalists, but after deliberation and extensive assessment that engaged an additional external industry representative, the winning artist was Erin Dunne with Songs of Suburbia and Subtropical Poems 2019.

"The work takes the form of a narrative visual story that captures quintessentially Queensland characteristics. Throughout the narrative the picture plain the perspective shifts from fisheye to wide-angle distorting the view and highlighting particular features like a green tree from and a rolled up The Morning Bulletin," Dr Gray said.

"While Rockhampton Art Gallery is well regarded as a significant collector of contemporary paintings we are also deeply committed to representing artists living within the Central Queensland region. This work will be acquired in to Rockhampton Art Gallery collection, capturing both a moment in time for Central Queensland and in Erin Dunne's artistic practice."

Visitors can also have their say in the People's Choice Award and go in to the draw to win $500. The winner of the People's Choice will be announced on Monday 5 August and the winning artist will receive $1000.

The exhibition of all artwork by the 24 finalists will be displayed at Rockhampton Art Gallery, June 22 - August 4, 2019 

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