Ceramic Prize winner announced

The prestigious $50,000 Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Prize for 2019 has been awarded to Lynda Draper for her work Somnambulism 2019.

The work entails a series of busts of kings and queens, their forms echoing the neoclassical statues discovered in grounds of a European palace, shrouded during the winter months to aid conservation. Monument-like, Draper places these new figures on tall white plinths. Their crisp whites, pearly pinks and pastel hues appear ghost-like and translucent, in contrast to the usual weightiness of bronze and concrete more commonly used for sculptures in parks and public spaces.   

For the artist, Somnambulism, or sleepwalking, is the dream-space between conscious and unconscious thought. The title conjures a psychological space with echoes of the wintery parklands, gardens and decorative excesses of the Château du Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris, France, where Draper was recently an artist-in-residence.

The Judging panel commented:

“The winning body of work by Lynda Draper, Somnambulism, 2019, is startling in its freshness. The narrative and ambition pushes at the very margins of what we understand clay to be able to do. In some respects, the coil form is the most rudimentary of forms.  However, Draper extends this rudimentary form into a series of portraits of royal personages that takes our understanding of architecture, space, decoration and form in gravity-defying new directions. These works are both childlike and sophisticated all in the one package.” 

Director of the Shepparton Art Museum [SAM], Dr Rebecca Coates, commended all finalists for the depth of their engagement with the ceramic medium and the particularly high quality of their presentations.

“The judges were looking for a work of exceptional quality; a work that engages with themes and ideas of our times; a work that is technically and conceptually ambitious; and, as an acquisitive prize, makes a strategic contribution to the development of the SAM Collection.

“This nationally significant award is now seen as an opportunity for artists working in the ceramics medium in Australia to go beyond their previous ambitions.  It is less of an award in the traditional sense and more of a challenge and a potentially career-defining opportunity.  This is a different ambition from many other art prizes today in that it allows artists the space, after their first expression of interest, to go away and develop something to even higher levels. This year for the first time the Judges shortlisted six artists rather than the usual five, due to the calibre and quality of ideas and proposals.”

“All of the artists have responded to the challenge with universal ambition.  In this sense, it has been like a true competition with each surpassing any expectations.  The artists have over-performed in terms of scope and ambition for each individual project,” Ms Coates said.

Curator, Lara Merrington said “Through a residency at the Chateau du Versailles, in Paris, Draper invites us to consider a European heritage, and our often-complex relationship to the history of Australia’s first European settlement and its impact on the Australian landscape and people.  Brought up on the European rituals, history, myths and legends, these tales of kings and queens, princes and princesses, dark forests and wintry Christmases take on an alien-ness in relation to our lived Australian context.”

The other 2019 finalists are: Julie Bartholomew, Stephen Bird, Greg Daly, Juz Kitson and Isadora Vaughan.

This year’s judges are Lisa Slade (Assistant Director, Artistic Programs at the Art Gallery of South Australia), Stephen Benwell (Artist) and Rebecca Coates (Director, SAM).

SAM’s reputation as the leading collection of ceramics in Regional Australia is further reinforced staging this fifth biennial of the Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award exhibition.

The relationship between the Sidney Myer Fund and Shepparton Art Museum spans over 28 years. Through this relationship, and the acquisitive Award, over 175 works have been acquired. 

Image: Lynda Draper with her winning work at SAM, photo by Amina Barolli.