Christian Thompson | Bowness Photography Prize winner

The William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize is an important annual survey of contemporary photographic practice in Australia and continues to showcase excellence in the medium with the 2020 iteration no exception. After much consideration, the judging panel – acclaimed artist Fiona Hall, NGA Senior Curator of Photography, Dr Shaune Lakin, and MGA Director, Anouska Phizacklea – narrowed a strong field of entries to four exceptional works to commend.

At a special event held at Monash Gallery of Art and streamed online, the $30,000 acquisitive award was presented to artist Christian Thompson for his epic four-panel work Rule of three (2020).

Christian Thompson, Rule of three, 2020, chromogenic prints, 250 x 250cm. Courtesy the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne and Michael Reid, Sydney + Berlin

Thompson is a Bidjara man of the Kunja Nation from south-west Queensland, and of German-Jewish heritage, whose multidisciplinary practice uses photography, video, sculpture, performance and sound to examine the inconsistencies and misrepresentations of Aboriginality by the dominant culture. His works have been widely exhibited and collected both nationally and internationally. This winning work Rule of three will join a small selection of works by Thompson in the MGA Collection.

‘In a year full of challenges with a pandemic that transformed our society, the works all reflect and respond to our environment, our history and our place within it. Christian Thompson’s ‘Rule of three’ is a monumental, compelling, and poignant masterpiece that speaks to the complexity and historical legacies of Indigenous representation, cultural identity and Indigenous voices with a contemporaneity that catapults the work into another stratosphere. It is drawn from a body of work that contributes to the considerable weight to his sustained practice of integrating photography and lens-based practice with performative and gestural interventions. It is a timely and worthy acknowledgement.’

— Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Gallery Director

‘I feel honoured to be the winner of this year’s William and Winifred Photography Prize. The prize is a national platform for the medium of photography, a medium that has been close to me since childhood. This year was a really dynamic year and it was a pleasure to exhibit alongside members of the photographic community and to witness the breadth, resonance, importance and power of photography today – an enduring medium in our increasingly globalised world, a space for a quiet moment. Thank you for this acknowledgment.’

— Christian Thompson, artist

Colour Factory Honourable mentions have been awarded to Chris Barry for her intimate portraits titled The Boko family, in situ (2020), Janina Green for her exquisite hand-coloured gelatin silver print Two women (back view) (2019) and Ponch Hawkes for her humorous take on isolation with her work Isolation husband (2020).

The 2020 Smith & Singer People’s Choice Award recipient is Zoe Arnott for her work that reflects on the challenges of keeping in touch with family during Melbourne’s lockdown Max at 99 (2020).

Congratulations to all!