The Geelong contemporary art prize, Geelong Gallery’s biennial acquisitive award for contemporary painting worth $30,000, has been awarded to Melbourne artist Andrew Browne.
The 2018 prize-winning work was selected from over 550 entries received from around the country and is the first by Browne to be acquired by Geelong Gallery. Browne’s evocative, narrative-rich painting, The awakening (2017), has been lauded as an outstanding example of the established artist’s practice, bringing together a number of his enduring interests including landscape, nature phenomena, light, and the anthropomorphic potential of the spaces we inhabit.
In his artist statement, Browne states, ‘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.’
Browne continues, ‘Though each element is in itself quite the mundane everyday, we’ve all been memorably disorientated in the nocturnal landscape, been spooked by an unusual aspect of foliage or happenchance detritus… Or perhaps it’s just an awakening from a bad dream!’
The announcement of the winner was made by Justin Paton, Head curator of International Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and co-judge of the prize, at the opening of the exhibition on Friday 8 June. The judging panel for this year’s prize also included Rebecca Coates, Director, Shepparton Art Museum, and Lisa Sullivan, Senior Curator, Geelong Gallery.
The judges reflected on the winning work:
‘This was a work that drew us in immediately and kept drawing us back. The key to its power is the board at the centre with its staring black ‘eyes’, backlit by a haunting nocturnal glow. With its flicks, smudges and overruns of colour, the plywood board suggests a painted surface hidden to the viewer, sharpening our curiosity about what has been made- or is being made- on the other side. The object could be read in multiple ways: as a redundant protest placard tied against a tree, or an abstracted crucifix-like form with looming attendants on each side. Gothic and film-noir-esque, the painting’s moodiness and ambiguity are absolutely of our times. This may be an image of the fate of painting, or a broader evocation of a world where troubling events transpire on the edge of our awareness.’
The Geelong contemporary art prize is a signature event that assists with the development of the Gallery’s collection while fostering Australian artists and contemporary painting practice in general. Browne’s painting is on display at Geelong Gallery from 9 June to 19 August 2018 along with 35 works shortlisted for exhibition.