NATIONAL: An artwork that was created following the artist’s visit to a remote Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory has won the $30,000 Dobell Prize for Drawing 2012.
Gareth Sansom’s work, Made in Wadeye, is a suite of 20 drawings in ink, lead pencil, graphite, coloured watercolour pencil, felt tipped pen, ball point pen, egg tempera, earth and collage.
It is the 20th year of the Art Gallery of NSW’s prize and 639 drawings were entered, of which 47 were chosen as finalists.
Sansom, 73, visited the Aboriginal community southwest of Darwin in September this year, where his doctor wife was working in the clinic.
Reference to the Wadeye community can be found in a small, collaged, photocopied map, and earth, captured in the egg tempera paint.
But although the visit to Wadeye was the impetus for the series, it was not its subject.
Sansom says: “I make stream-of-consciousness drawings with sources going back years.”
The judge, Aida Tomescu, said Made in Wadeye hovered on the outskirts of figuration and on the borderline of abstraction.
“I am attracted to the freshness of the work, its clarity and its light playfulness, and the unpredictability of the succession of images, and delicacy of the rapport between them,” she says.
The art gallery says Sansom has been a pre-eminent figure of the Australian avant garde for over 50 years.
His watercolours, collages and paintings are based on a personal iconography that includes imagery of a sexual, satirical and philosophical nature.
Born in Melbourne, Sansom studied art at RMIT between 1959 and 1964 and came to prominence in the 1960s as a radical convention-breaking painter, with influences ranging from Picasso and Jean Dubuffet to Francis Bacon and British pop art.
He was Head of Painting, then Dean of the School of Art, at the Victorian College of the Arts between 1977 and 1991.
Sansom has exhibited widely, represented Australia at the Seventh Triennale, India in 1991 and won numerous awards, including the National Works on Paper Award in 2006 and John McCaughey Memorial Prize in 2008.
The art gallery also announced that this is the final year of the Dobell Drawing Prize in its present form.
It and the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation instead will launch the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial in 2014.