Katrin Koenning wins William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize

Katrin Koenning, Three from the series Lake Mountain, 2018Katrin Koenning has won the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize with her work Three from the series Lake Mountain (2018).

The judging panel, Anouska Phizacklea (MGA Director), Chris Saines (Director of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art) and acclaimed artist, Dr Christian Thompson AO, were unanimous in their decision to award Koenning the $30,000 acquisitive prize for her subtle and quiet image of the bushfire-ravaged landscape of Lake Mountain a decade after Black Saturday in 2009.

“The 14th edition of the Bowness Photography Prize captures the zeitgeist of contemporary Australian photography as a reflection of the broader social and political environment within which we all live,” said Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director. “Katrin’s work speaks with quiet restraint about an issue that will define our generation – the loss of our landscape and the destruction of our planet.”

“It is a powerful reflection on an intense event that left our bush in cinders and took a horrific toll on communities with the loss of so many loved ones. The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires left an indelible mark on Victorians and its memory is a stark reminder of the frailty of our communities and the environment, and our susceptibility to extreme weather events as our climate changes. We are delighted that this work will join MGA’s permanent collection.”

“This year’s Bowness Photography Prize was highly competitive with a vast array of high quality entries,” said Dr Christian Thompson AO. “After a prolonged debate about the works we were delighted to announce Katrin Koenning as the winner of the Bowness Photography Prize with her haunting and compelling triptych work from the series Lake Mountain.”

“The triptych is a poignant and timely work that fits into a larger conversation about the transience and fragility of the vulnerable nature of the Australian landscape. It is a quiet and considered work that speaks to the seductive and ethereal nature of Koenning’s oeuvre. It lingers and stays with you, it not only presents the reality of the issues we are dealing with but contextualises and invites enquiry.”

“Katrin Koenning’s triptych Lake Mountain is an understated but deeply affecting image whose appearance could hardly be more timely,” said Chris Saines, Director of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. “As parts of the country burn with unseasonal regularity and intensity, Koenning reminds us of the lasting damage to the landscape when bushfires reach such a level of ferocity that forest canopies explode and trees irredeemably blacken and die, struggling to regenerate long after the fire’s passing.”

“In a moving lament for this loss, Koenning takes us close into the forest floor of this otherwise beautiful Victorian Alpine region, where a relatively young stand of trees are still, a decade on from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, all but bereft of living foliage. Even the undergrowth seems unable to right itself under the weight of what appears to be a light dusting of snow (albeit it feels, in this context, more reminiscent of ash).”

“Bushfires, at the level in which we are increasingly experiencing them, can and do create their own kind of endless winter. Koenning’s eloquent requiem for Lake Mountain is a remarkably composed and restrained but still urgent and insistent cri de coeur. It asks us to reflect on the terms of our coexistence with nature, and their sustainability, in an age of environmental crisis.”

On receiving the 2019 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize, artist Katrin Koenning noted: “Winning the Bowness Photography Prize is the greatest public acknowledgement of my practice to date,” she said. “It is an indescribable feeling; this idea that after 12 years of never giving up you are being seen marks a truly moving moment to say the least.”

“If one of the roles of the artist is to engage critically with the times in which they live, winning the Bowness enables me to continue doing so. I could not be more thankful, or more proud,” said Koenning.

The judges also commended the recipients of the Colour Factory Honourable Mentions: Zia Atahi for his work, The truth – self-portrait (2018); Polly Borland for her work, MORPH 8 (2018); and Angela Tiatia for her work, Narcissus (2019).

The 2019 Bowness Photography Prize shortlist is an outstanding selection of Australian artists that reveal a picture of Australia as a multicultural, quirky and extraordinary place. Curated from nearly 700 entries these works collectively create a cohesive snapshot of contemporary photographic practice today.

The finalists include: Rochelle Marie Adam, Riste Andrievski, Jonathan Armstrong, Zia Atahi, Simon Aubor, Sarah Barker, Sofi Basseghi, Greg Bilton, Polly Borland, Anna Carey, Céleste Cebra, Danica Chappell, Peta Clancy, David Collins, Ross Coulter, Emilio Cresciani, Chloe Dann, Gerwyn Davies, Shoufay Derz, Jo Duck, Stephen Dupont, Cherine Fahd, James Farley, George Fetting, Robert Fielding, J Forsyth, Andrea Francolini, Jon Frank, Lee Grant, Mark Harper, Fiona Kemp, Ingvar Kenne, Katrin Koenning, Benjamin Liew, Louis Lim, Ruth Maddison, Koji Makino, Danie Mellor, Anne Moffat, Bill Moseley, Tajette O’Halloran, Sean Paris, Sonia Payes, Clare Rae, Asanka Brendon Ratnayake, Justin Ridler, Simone Rosenbauer, David Rosetzky, Jo Scicluna, Vivian Cooper Smith, Jacqui Stockdale, Nathan Stolz, Angela Tiatia, Lisa Tomasetti, James Tylor, Justine Varga, Lydia Wegner and Adele Wilkes.

The Bowness Photography Prize is an important survey of contemporary photographic practice and one of the most prestigious prizes in the country, providing Australian artists with the opportunity to exhibit at one of Australia’s leading public galleries.

Since 2017 the prize has been acquisitive and the $30,000 cash prize awarded to the winner ensures that it continues to provide a significant boost to an artist’s career. The Sotheby’s Australia People’s Choice Award has been doubled this year from $2,500 to $5,000. Visit the exhibition to cast your vote!

The Bowness Photography Prize exhibition is on display at Monash Gallery of Art, the Australian home of photography, until 17 November 2019. For more information, visit: www.mga.org.au for details.

Image: Katrin Koenning, Three from the series Lake Mountain, 2018 – pigment ink-jet prints 80.0 x 100.0 (each)courtesy of the artist and Reading Room (Melbourne)