Minister for the Arts Heidi Victoria said the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards aimed to build the profile of southeast Australian Indigenous art and Victoria’s Indigenous artists.
Thomas, who has been working as an artist for more than 25 years, won for his oil on canvas portrait of his mother A Gunnai Elder – Mum Alice, which judges described as ‘a work of singular spiritual power’.
“The Victorian Indigenous Art Awards seek to showcase the unique character of the Indigenous art, and artists, who live, work and are inspired by this part of Australia,” said Ms Victoria.
The 41 finalist works showcase both traditional and contemporary art practices and range from a traditionally woven eel trap, to pokerwork on wood, paintings, video art, photography and sculpture.
More than $50,000 in prizes were presented at the Awards ceremony, with Torquay artist Bronwyn Razem receiving the $5,000 University of Ballarat Acquisitive Award and Lucy Williams-Connelly of Swan Hill receiving the Australian Catholic University Acquisitive Award, also with a $5,000 prize.
Other Award winners included Maryborough artist Georgia MacGuire and Peter Waples-Crowe of West Melbourne, who took out the Copyright Agency Limited’s Awards for three dimensional works and works on paper respectively.
Ms Victoria congratulated all winners and 2013 finalists and said that it is now the public’s turn to be the judge for the 2013 Arts Victoria People’s Choice Award, worth $2,500.
“This year’s finalist works celebrate the incredible depth and diversity of Victoria’s Indigenous arts sector and they feature in a stunning exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. I encourage everyone to visit the exhibition either in person or online via the Arts Victoria website and cast their vote for their favourite,” Ms Victoria said.
Art Gallery of Ballarat Director Gordon Morrison said that all the finalists were to be congratulated for the range and quality of the work on show.
“My fellow judges and I were impressed with the way Ray Thomas has referenced the naïve tradition of artists like Henri Rousseau to pay tribute to the experience of Melbourne’s urban Aboriginal community over four generations, acknowledging cultural connection through the elders to an era before white settlement. It is as much an icon as it is a portrait,” said Mr Morrison.
“The Art Gallery of Ballarat is very proud to be joining with Arts Victoria to offer this very special exhibition and showcase of Victorian Indigenous art to the people of Victoria and beyond.”
The Victorian Indigenous Art Awards exhibition is now open at the Art Gallery of Ballarat and runs until Sunday 8 December.
To view the online gallery and vote for the Arts Victoria People’s Choice Award, visit the website here – voting closes Monday 25 November 2013.
Image: Ray Thomas, A Gunnai Elder – Mum Alice, 2013, oil on canvas (detail)