Justine Varga wins Dobell Drawing Prize 2019

Announced at the National Art School by NSW Minister of the Arts, The Hon Don Harwin at the official opening of this year’s exhibition, the winners of the 2019 Dobell Drawing Prize: Justine Varga, Dobell Drawing Prize winner for her work Photogenic drawing (2018).

Justine Varga with Photogenic Drawing 2018, chromogenic photograph, 151.5 x 120cm, 154.5 x 123 9cm (framed). Photograph: Peter Morgan

Steven Alderton, Director of the National Art School said, ‘The Dobell Drawing Prize has always inspired the question, ‘What is a drawing?’ and this year’s Prize offers an exciting range of artists’ responses: from ambitious, large-scale works using complex materials to intimate and agile drawings.

We see works of exceptional technical skill in charcoal and pencil, as well as drawings realised through photography, animation, textile, sculpture and performance. It is perhaps this breadth of possibility that defines contemporary drawing and gives the Dobell Drawing Prize its enduring appeal.’

Justine Varga, Photogenic Drawing 2018, chromogenic photograph, 151.5 x 120cm, 154.5 x 123 9cm (framed). Courtesy the artist, Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Varga’s winning work challenges the distinction between photography and drawing. The negative from which Photogenic drawing has been derived was drawn on and daubed with pigment during its long exposure. In Photogenic drawing, Varga considers photography as drawing with light and this print is an example of a drawing practice that is at once physical and chemical, autobiographical and contingent, painterly and photographic.

‘Drawing is a fundamental part of many visual art practices. The winner of the Dobell Drawing Prize #21 uses drawing in the most meaningful and sophisticated way. Her work is a distillation of so many components of our collective lives. Drawing plays a pivotal role in this artist’s exploration of us all. The winning work is a powerful, playful and sophisticated 21st-century drawing and a deserved winner,’ says 2019 artist judge Ben Quilty.

Tony Albert, Old Sins Cast Long Shadows 2018 ink on archival paper, 76 x 57.5cm. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney

Acclaimed Indigenous artist Tony Albert was awarded Highly Commended for his work Old Sins Cast Long Shadows (2018).

‘Highly Commended goes to an artist who is relentlessly and skilfully re-writing dialogues about Australian histories,’ says Quilty. ‘Drawing underpins his practice. Old Sins Cast Long Shadows uses the most simple drawing techniques to tell a formidably sophisticated story.’

The ink drawing considers the history and framework of representing First Nations peoples globally. The work depicts the silhouette of a single figure made up of the many inaccurate and harmful representation of First Nations peoples throughout history, challenging the reductive representation that has obscured the serious issues that have plagued First Nations communities for years and led to the creation of warped stereotypes that make it easier to ignore ongoing oppression.

The winning works will be presented alongside 57 finalist works at the National Art School Gallery until 25 May 2019.