Online entries for the 2016 Geelong contemporary art prize will open in mid February 2016.

The 2016 Geelong contemporary art prize is a signature event that assists with the development of the Gallery’s collection while fostering Australian artists and contemporary painting practice in general.


2014 Geelong contemporary art prize
Winner of the 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize, Rob McHaffie’s Preserve this fruit is highly representative of the artist’s practice in which he presents small vignettes of observed everyday life: portraits of characters both real and imagined. His vibrant paintings skilfully simulate the appearance of collage: each of the composition’s elements derived from various source materials or pages of magazines. This award winning work depicts a singular figure of an elderly man in profile in a style reminiscent of Asian shadow puppets and temple paintings.

The artist’s interest in these traditional art forms flourished during a 2011 Asialink residency at Rimbun Dahan, near Kuala Lumpur, and after living in Thailand for an extended period where he worked with cut paper to create collages: ‘sketches’ that form the basis for his paintings. Just as the figure in this work is ‘constructed’ from paper cut from the pages of a magazine, McHaffie constructs an imaginary narrative between this elderly gentleman—representative of traditional Thai life—and the silk entrepreneur Jim Thompson, who in the years after the Second World War, reinvigorated the Thai silk industry.

Guest judge, Charlotte Day said: ‘Preserve this fruit reflects Rob McHaffie’s distinctive approach to painting involving processes of modeling and collaging. Although modest in scale, his paintings are sharply perceptive reflections on the paradoxes of contemporary life. As well as nodding to traditional Thai folk painting, this work can be appreciated as an allegory of Western and colonial attitudes to the East.’


2012 Geelong contemporary art prize 
Paul Ryan was awarded the 2012 Geelong contemporary art prize for his painting, Wild colonial boys, a witty and provocative work that addresses aspects of Australia's colonial history, in particular, the impact of European settlement on Indigenous lands and people. The dual portrait of uniformed figures posits one newly-arrived subject in the landscape, whilst the other is surrounded by a blank canvas. Painted in thick, expressive brushstrokes and wearing heavy military garb ill-suited to the Australian climate, the two subjects of Ryan’s work gaze intently at the viewer with a mix of bravado and awkwardness. Guest judge,Susan McCulloch OAM said Wild colonial boys, “reflects a truly contemporary view on a fundamentally important and often uncomfortable subject — the impact of colonisation on Australia. More frequently portrayed in recent times by leading contemporary Indigenous artists, it is both refreshing and timely therefore to see a non-Indigenous artist focusing in entirely contemporary manner on this topic so tellingly and with such a fine sense of aesthetic.”

2010 Fletcher Jones art prize
Inspired by the languid demeanour of a homeless woman observed by the artist while on a residency in New York in 2008-09, Tim McMonagle's painting The happy song depicts a dishevelled, barefoot figure reclining on a vast and bulbous mound representing her worldly possessions. Discarded high heel shoes and a plastic drinking cup are positioned in the foreground: symbols of the consumer culture from which she is seemingly displaced. Reminiscent of the social satire of 18th and early-19th century British artists such as William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray, McMonagle's ‘dream-like' composition offers a contemporary parallel to the social commentaries of these earlier artists. Using the square format that has become a signature of the artist's practice, the work is rendered in a severe mono-tonal palette, the sepia tint emphasising McMonagle's strong drafting skills. Thick impastoed paint, juxtaposed with light, almost scumbled passages test the possibilities of the oil medium.

2008 Fletcher Jones art prize
Nadine Christensen was awarded the 2008 Fletcher Jones art prize for her work, Untitled (Tiled floor) (2008). Christensen’s meticulously painted work brings together seemingly unconnected items – a light fitting on a wrought iron base, a video recorder, monitor, feathers, twine, domestic dog and wolf – that are positioned on an angled floor of decorative tiles. Untitled (Tiled floor) explores the relationship between nature and artifice, old and new, real and illusionary, as well as notions of redundancy in a materialistic and technological age. Christensen aims to achieve maximum flatness in the work: in the choice of board as the painting’s support, the meticulous application of the paint layers and in the removal of pictorial depth in the carefully arranged composition.

2006 Fletcher Jones art prize
Melbourne artist Sam Leach was awarded the 2006 Fletcher Jones art prize for his work, Peacock going up (2006). Leach's superbly executed work, reminiscent of a Dutch still-life painting, depicts a limp, white peacock hanging above an elevator door. Within the dark background, the subtle addition of an LED display panel of an ascending arrow, acts as a visual pun: the lifeless bird will not 'go up' as the title of the painting suggests. Presented in the manner of a 17th century vanitas image, the usually ostentatious peacock reminds us of the transience of life, while its placement in a modern corporate setting addresses the temporary status of material wealth.

2004 Fletcher Jones art prize
Juan Ford's Painting, phrenology (Abstraction) (2004) was awarded the 2004 Fletcher Jones art prize.The artist's large, photo-realistic portrait suggests the isolation of the individual in a modern technological age. The reference to phrenology (the theory that a person's character and mental ability are indicated by the shape and size of the skull) provides an insight into Ford's concern with our biotechnological future. According to the artist, the painted head represents the 'vessels which carry our stories in them'.

2002 Geelong contemporary art prize
A rich and energetic abstract painting, Ann Thomson's work, Change takes time (2002), was awarded the2002 Geelong contemporary art prize. The painting provides balance and harmony within a chaotic application of colour and texture. Art critic, Robert Nelson, referred to the work as ‘impetuous, instinctive and spontaneous’ in his review of the 2002 exhibition. 

2000 Geelong contemporary art prize
The 2000 Geelong contemporary art prize was awarded to John Young for his painting The inner guide(2000). When accepting the prize on behalf of the artist, his Melbourne dealer Anna Schwartz said: ‘The inner guide has a superimposed image of a figure over a larger surface of thin layers of paint, juxtaposing the idea of billboards and new technologies. These allude to the personal inner guide in relation to new technologies and our individual relationship to the world.’