2014 Geelong contemporary art prize

Melbourne-based artist Rob McHaffie has taken out the 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize for his bright, colourful and whimsical painting Preserve this fruit. For more details, download the media release.

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.

In addition to the skillful ‘collaging’ of shapes, patterns and references, what most impressed us about this painting is its slow reveal. While seducing the viewer with its lush crimson background and bright, intricate designs in the first instance, it does not give itself away to the casual glance. It’s more like a puzzle that requires some thoughtful working out.

As well as creating dialogue with other contemporary and historical paintings in Geelong’s impressive collection, we envisage that it may also have resonance with artworks in other media, particularly the ceramic collection.

Showcasing the best of contemporary Australian painting practice, this $30,000 acquisitive award and biennial exhibition features 42 works by:

  • Tony Albert & Natalya Hughes
  • Fergus Binns
  • Stephen Bram
  • Mitch Cairns
  • Jon Campbell
  • Vicki Clissold
  • Dick Collis
  • Jason Cordero
  • George Egerton-Warburton, Hamishi Farah & Helen Johnson
  • Emily Ferretti
  • Prudence Flint
  • Adrienne Gaha
  • Eleanor Hart
  • Katherine Hattam
  • Kristin Headlam
  • Euan Heng
  • Peter Hill
  • Dean Home
  • Dena Kahan
  • Joanna Lamb
  • Adam Lee
  • Rob McHaffie
  • Moya McKenna
  • William Mackinnon
  • Andrew Mezei
  • Scott Miles
  • Vera Moller
  • Tully Moore
  • John Nixon
  • Stieg Persson
  • Josie Kunoth Petyarre
  • Adam Pyett
  • Victoria Reichelt
  • Steven Rendall
  • Mark Rodda
  • Felicity Spear
  • Heather B Swann
  • Judith Van Heeren
  • Deborah Walker
  • Irene Wellm
  • Paul Williams 
  • Alice Wormald

Geelong Gallery wishes to thank the Dimmick Charitable Trust for generously sponsoring this signature event, which assists with the development of the Gallery’s collection while fostering Australian artists and contemporary painting practice in general.

Selection panel

  • Charlotte Day
    Guest judge and Director, Monash University Museum of Art
  • Geoffrey Edwards
    Director, Geelong Gallery
  • Lisa Sullivan
    Curator, Geelong Gallery

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.’