Queensland College of Art (QCA) Alumnus Tony Albert has taken out two prestigious national art prizes in as many months, landing $150,000 in prize money.
Tony won the $100,000 Basil Sellers Art Prize at the end of July, before also winning the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, valued at $50,000 last month.
Tony’s winning work, Once upon a time… (2013-14) consists of a painted target over which 23 small framed works are hung, comprising of watercolours on paper, photographs and collage, and small vignettes made of found objects including toys, blocks and figurines.
Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Ms Kelly Gellatly, who was on the judging panel, says Tony’s work highlights the way in which sport can be a positive forum in which to both air and tackle difficult subjects, such as racism.
“Once upon a time deals with the ongoing issue of racism in sport, and by implication, Australian society more broadly,” Ms Gellatly said.
“Judges commended Once upon a time for its bravery and poetry, and for the fact it tackles such a difficult and emotive issue in sport and Australian culture without being didactic or heavy-handed.”
Tony’s work that took out first prize in the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Art Award is similarly emotive, and aims to portray positivity in the face of adversity.
Can we be heroes (2013-14) is inspired by the police shooting of two Indigenous teenagers as they went on a joy ride in Kings Cross in 2012.
The work features photographic portraits of 20 young Indigenous men (Tony included) with targets painted on their bare chests with a black background.
Tony witnessed friends of the teenage boys, shirts off with targets drawn on their body, at protests following the shooting and found it incredibly profound for young people to make such a statement.
Tony graduated from the QCA with a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art in 2004, and has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Israel and China.
The Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition is on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, until October 26.