Guardian Totem (with Toad)’s wins the 2016 Bankwest Art Prize

Tarryn Gill’s work, titled Guardian Totem (with Toad), was awarded the coveted $30,000 prize at the opening of the 2016 Bankwest Art Prize, an award is open to all artists across Western Australia. This year it returns to showcasing three dimensional works following a successful inaugural sculpture competition in 2014.

The winning work will form part of the Bankwest Art Collection, joining one of the State’s most significant corporate art collections, holding artworks by around 450 WA artists.

This year’s judges – Director of the Monash University Museum of Art in Melbourne Charlotte Day, artist and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia Dr Jon Tarry and Bankwest Art Curator Sandra Murray – described the winning work as “possessing an immediate presence with a rich range of cultural references and a dexterous use of theatrical materials that plays on textures. Building on the tradition of soft sculpture, Gill’s work delivers an engaging relationship between its front and back – both the conscious and unconscious are explored.”

Tarryn Gill, Guardian Totem (with Toad)
“This sculpture prize delivers a distinct vigour and freshness of ideas with a diversification in materials. These artists are at the forefront of contemporary sculptural practice and their works are a joy to experience,” added Murray.

Gill said she was both delighted and overwhelmed to win this award. “I thought they were calling me to tell me something was broken on the piece or there was something wrong with it. I was so excited,” she said. “I want to thank Bankwest as this kind of support for the art world is so important as, in my case, winning gives me the opportunity to spend more time working in my studio.”

A work which is taken from a series which the artist says began following a residency undertaken at the Freud Museum, London. Tarryn said of the piece: “After being privy to the collection of antiquities in Freud’s study, I was inspired to create soft sculptures which appear like seers or prophets. They also draw inspiration from Japanese tomb ornaments (known as Haniwa), which are arranged around a burial site in order to protect the dead and drive away evil. These works combine my personal memories with characters drawn from mythology, pop culture and funerary art to activate a space between the earthly and other-worldly.”

Since its inception in 2001 the Bankwest Art Prize has gained recognition as one of the most prestigious and generous awards for artists in the state. It is the only prize of this magnitude exclusively for Western Australian artists.

The 2016 Bankwest Art Prize finalists are: Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Claire Bailey, Paul Caporn, Mikaela Castledine, Peter Dailey, Kevin Draper, Susan Flavell, Tarryn Gill, Paul Kaptein, Theo Koning, Lou Lambert, Angela McHarrie, Geoff Overheu, Mark Parfitt, Alistair Rowe and Andrew Sunley Smith.

Bankwest Art Gallery
Until 10 March, 2017

Tarryn Gill, Guardian Totem (with toad) (detail), 2016, foam, hand stitched fabrics, thread, gemstones, mirrors, beads, ladies’ gloves, artificial cat eyes and Fimo, 92 x 52 x 48cm (215 high including plinth)
Courtesy the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne