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Award offers breakthrough chance for Indigenous artists

John Fries Award Finalist Serena Bonson creating bark wood carving with ochre paint. Serena's work, Wangarra Spirits, featured in the John Fries Award Exhibition 2013.

Organisers of the 6th annual John Fries Award are reaching out to emerging Indigenous artists across Australia and New Zealand to enter a portfolio of their contemporary work for an opportunity to build their experience as an early-career artist.

This year, the entry calls for 5-10 images that demonstrate the artist’s developing practice in their chosen discipline over the past three years. The selected finalists will be encouraged to work with the curator to select, modify or develop a work for the exhibition.

New Curator for 2015 Oliver Watts, says the annual award represents an exciting opportunity for emerging and early career artists to break through to the next level of their visual arts career.

“The Award has been a major way to raise exposure for these artists,” he said.

“We’ve had some really exciting contemporary Indigenous artists feature in previous exhibitions like Jason Wing, Beryline Mung and Alair Pambegan, all of which have continued growing their artist career through ongoing gallery sales and exhibitions.

“Vincent Namatjira, the great-grandson of the famous landscape watercolourist Albert Namatjira, has just been acquired by the British Museum and the John Fries Award was one of the first public outings for his work.

“This year, I’m really looking forward to working closely with individual artists, or with communities who want to put in collaborative work, to exploring ideas they may have to create something new based on the images they’ve sent.

“The award has really come into its own and is now well-known for showcasing some of the best breakthrough contemporary artists across Australia and New Zealand. It’s about providing much needed support for emerging and early career artists to provide a platform to be discovered and to explore and further develop the direction they want to take,” he said.

Call for entries into the John Fries Award are open now and close at 12 noon on Thursday, 19 February. All finalists’ entries feature in a month-long exhibition to be held during September 2015 at UNSW Galleries at UNSW Art & Design – the award’s presenting partner for the second year running.

This continued partnership outlines both Copyright Agency | Viscopy and UNSW Art & Design’s desire to build a professional and resilient creative economy through recognising outstanding talent in the emerging arts sector.
The award’s $10,000 prize money has been donated by the Fries family in memory of former Viscopy director and honorary treasurer, John Fries, who made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of Viscopy.