2019 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize winner

Katrin Koenning has won the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize with her work ŒThree, a subtle and quiet triptych of the bushfire-ravaged landscape of Lake Mountain a decade after Black Saturday in 2009; from the series Lake Mountain (2018).

Katrin Koenning, Three, 2018, from the series Lake Mountain, pigment ink-jet prints, 80 x 100cm (each). Courtesy the artist and Reading Room, Melbourne

After a prolonged debate, the judging panel was unanimous in their decision to award Koenning the $30,000 acquisitive prize;

‘Katrin’s work speaks with quiet restraint about an issue that will define our generation ­ the loss of our landscape and the destruction of our planet. It is a powerful reflection on an intense event that left our bush in cinders and took a horrific toll on communities with the loss of so many loved ones. The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires left an indelible mark on Victorians, and its memory is a stark reminder of the frailty of our communities and the environment, and our susceptibility to extreme weather events as our climate changes. We are delighted that this work will join MGA’s permanent collection.’
– Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director

‘The triptych is a poignant and timely work that fits into a larger conversation about the transience and fragility of the vulnerable nature of the Australian landscape. It is a quiet and considered work that speaks to the seductive and ethereal nature of Koenning’s oeuvre. It lingers and stays with you, it not only presents the reality of the issues we are dealing with but contextualises and invites enquiry.’
– Dr Christian Thompson AO

‘Katrin Koenning’s triptych Lake Mountain is an understated but deeply affecting image whose appearance could hardly be more timely. As parts of the country burn with unseasonal regularity and intensity, Koenning reminds us of the lasting damage to the landscape when bushfires reach such a level of ferocity that forest canopies explode and trees irredeemably blacken and die, struggling to regenerate long after the fire’s passing. In a moving lament for this loss, Koenning takes us close into the forest floor of this otherwise beautiful Victorian Alpine region, where a relatively young stand of trees are still, a decade on from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, all but bereft of living foliage. Even the undergrowth seems unable to right itself under the weight of what appears to be a light dusting of snow (albeit it feels, in this context, more reminiscent of ash). Bushfires, at the level in which we are increasingly experiencing them, can and do create their own kind of endless winter. Koenning¹s eloquent requiem for Lake Mountain is a remarkably composed and restrained but still urgent and insistent cri de coeur. It asks us to reflect on the terms of our coexistence with nature, and their sustainability, in an age of environmental crisis.’
– Chris Saines, Director of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

‘During the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires significant damage was caused at Lake Mountain, changing it forever. Continuing my engagement with ecological imaginaries, this triptych is part of a decade-long, site-specific work with a forest re-growing from injury, a mountain who owns my heart, and climate change. Lake Mountain is a work of love and return, in dialogue with a wounded living world. It is a work about Earth in trauma ­ fighting, pleading we change our violent ways.’
– Katrin Koenning, artist

View the works of all 58 finalists at Monash Gallery of Art, on show until 17 November 2019, and cast your vote for the $5,000 Sotheby’s Australia People’s Choice Award.