The happy winner of the 2015 John Fries Award - Ben Ward - at work in the Warringarri Art Centre
Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 21.01.16
With the first-ever win by an Aboriginal artist – 65-year-old Ben Ward from Kunnunurra, WA – of the $10,000 John Fries Award last year, the organisers are keen to receive even more entries from Indigenous Australian and New Zealand artists for the 2016 Award. It has just opened for entries.
Artists need to submit five images of recent work to enter the competition, which is run annually by artists’ rights organisation, the Copyright Agency | Viscopy. Shortlisted artists can work with the award’s curator and judge to create their final exhibition work.
Curator Oliver Watts wants to work closely with remote art centres and Indigenous curators to help find and uncover the next wave of talent. “The John Fries Award is really about a providing a platform of discovery. It gives emerging artists the chance to gain first-hand experience of working with a curator, become better networked with others in the industry and have their work seen by thousands of people through an exhibition and online gallery. This kind of exposure will help open doors to future opportunities,” he says.
Indigenous finalists over the years have included Jason Wing, Serena Bonson, Beryline Mung, Alair Pambegan, Pauletta Kerinauia and Kitty Malarvie, all of whom have used the opportunity to grow their careers through gallery sales and exhibitions.
“The John Fries Award team is proud to have such a strong history of Indigenous work in the exhibition and we have been happy to see these artists leverage the award to greater success,” Watts says. “Indigenous art has an incredibly important place in the contemporary art scene. In the global age, Indigenous art is an exciting and vital challenge to Western orthodoxies.
“Post-colonial art, of which Indigenous art plays a major part, is often about displacement and migration, but I am also interested in the very nature of Indigeneity, and its particular relationship to place and time. We are interested in how Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori artists see the world, with issues and influences that are happening to them right now.”
This year, the entry conditions call for five images that demonstrate the artist’s developing practice in their chosen discipline over the past three years. The John Fries Award is open for entry now and closes at 12 noon on Monday, 22 February. All finalists’ entries feature in an exhibition from 20 August to 1 October 2016 a UNSW Galleries in Paddington, Sydney – the award’s presenting partner for the third year running.
The award’s $10,000 prize money has been donated by the Fries family in memory of former Viscopy director and honorary treasurer, John Fries, who made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of Viscopy.
The 2015 winning work, Ben Ward's 'Our Country' (2015) - natural ochres on plywood, 122 x 240 cms