Winner: Pip McManus
Medium: digital video
Judge: Susan McCulloch
The standard of this year’s Alice Prize is of very high of calibre and represents a fine range of Australian contemporary art. It contains many surprises and many unusual works and the exhibition as a whole is varied, challenging and stimulating. That artists of the standing of Col Jordon, former professor and associate dean of the College of Fine Art, University of Sydney and a leading and long-time abstractionist; and senior Balgo artist Eubena Nampitjin whose works are sought by leading private and public collections internationally, were entrants in this year’s Prize, is a tribute to its significance in the Australian art world.
Having known this Prize since almost its beginning 1970 as my father, the critic, the late Alan McCulloch, judged the Prize in 1972, I have charted its development over the years. One of its most noteworthy aspects, as well as bringing art from around Australia to the Centre, has been its consistent inclusion of the work of indigenous artists. In 2008 the mix of indigenous and non indigenous artists has become almost de rigeur for many Australian art prizes. This was not the case in the early 1970s and it is a mark of the foresight and egalitarian approach of the Alice Springs Art Foundation that it was decades ahead of almost all other Australian art prizes in encouraging this.
That this prize is acquisitive and has a four week residency component, are significant, if secondary, factors in choosing a winner. Of prime importance is the aesthetic impact of a work. The work of five artists out of the total of 60 stood out. Sarah Daniels Mina Mina acrylic on canvas painting is a softly shaded work whose soft pinks, yellows and blues are underpinned by many layers of differing colours which give the work resonance and depth. Queensland artist Jennie Jackson’s multi-panelled acrylic on canvas, Sweet Subterfuge, is a painting of finesse and subtle rhythm as she explores ways in which our environment has been portrayed over the centuries. Eubena Nampitjin’s acrylic on canvas, Kinyu, is a lusciously coloured red, pink and white painting – beautifully balanced and demonstrating also Nampitjin’s freedom of painterly command. I thought especially interesting and of fine quality Catriona Stanton’s mixed media four panelled work, Swathe, in which she depicts a desert landscape with great eloquence and a strong sense of tactility, through the unlikely medium of myriads of toothpicks. Taking an aerial perspective, the work pays homage to, but is in no way derivative of, the patternation often noted in the work of leading Aboriginal desert painters.
Pip McManus’s DVD Ichor [The ethereal fluid flowing in the veins of the gods, but poisonous to mortals], was for me, the stand out work. In this hour long DVD, an androgynous ancient-looking ceramic figure, to the perfect accompaniment of a cello, slowly fragments until it collapses into the earth from which it derives. Transformational and compelling, Ichor is also a work of great beauty, integrity and lasting visual impact and one which demonstrates McManus’s practice as a ceramacist developing in new and exciting realms. It is a very fine work of international standard.
Susan McCulloch, judge 2008 Prize
Kate Podger – Curator, Araluen Galleries
David Broker – Director, Canberra Contemporary Art Space
Iain Campbell– Artist, Alice Springs