Queensland College of Art students are proving that they are at the top of their game, scooping up the major prizes at a host of prestigious awards in the past month.
Alicia Lane, 43, won the $15,000 top prize at the Swell Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast.
Her entry, Rainforest Remnants, was a series of seed pods crafted from antique laundry coppers sourced from across south-east Queensland.
The prize was judged by Gold Coast City Art Gallery Director Tracy Cooper-Lavery, who said the work resonated with the festival’s philosophy of ‘people, art, place’.
Taking out the festival’s major prize was no easy feat, with 55 entries in this year’s competition by Australian and international artists.
“It was completely unexpected – my head is still spinning,” Alicia said.
“I felt really humbled to be chosen.”
Alicia undertook a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the QCA, before embarking on her Doctorate in Visual Arts.
It has been a long, hard road for the artist, who didn’t finish high school and embarked on her studies as a mature age student while juggling two young children and part-time work.
“I was always a practicing artist, but I was out on my own and didn’t have any connection to the art world.
“I did my Grade 12 equivalent at TAFE, and then was accepted into the QCA, which has just opened up all kinds of possibilities.”
Blair Coffey takes out prestigious regional art award
QCA Bachelor of Fine Arts Hons graduate and current RhD student Blair Coffey, 46, has just taken out the Rio Tinto Martin Hanson Memorial Art Award, worth $15,000.
Now in its 41st year, the awards are one of Queensland’s most prestigious regional art events, attracting more than 300 entries from established, emerging and amateur artists from across the country.
The awards were judged by Jason Smith, Director of Geelong Gallery and a former Curator of Australian Art at GOMA.
He described Blair’s work, Conquest, as “in your face”.
“At first I resisted this piece – it was just too much,” he said.
“But I kept coming back to it again and again, and it made me think about where we’re going in the 21st century, as societies, cultures and people.
“I love what it says about the way we interact with each other and every other species on earth.”
Blair was inspired by an ancient Roman bust he spotted on a visit to the British Museum, and created an arresting screen print on a piece of foil insulation from Bunnings.
“It definitely wasn’t your traditional oil painting,” he says with a laugh.
Blair said he was honoured to receive recognition for his work.
“This was the first time I’ve ever entered my work for an art prize,” he said.
“The money will provide a bit of security and help me mount my next exhibition, but to have my work acknowledged by a judge of Jason’s calibre was the real reward.”
Karen Stephens captures the colours of Queensland
QCA Honours student Karen Stephens, 32, won the $10,000 top prize at the 2016 Queensland Regional Art Awards.
Karen’s piece, Noogooraville won the Flying Arts Art for Life Award and will be part of a touring exhibition across Queensland from November 2016 – January 2018.
This year’s theme was ‘Colours of Queensland’ and Karen’s landscape painting was based on a trip back to her home town of Winton.
“The landscape out there inspires me – I never get tired of looking at it,” she said.
“All of my memories and feelings are tied up in the landscape out there, it has an incredible energy.”
Karen completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the QCA before embarking on her Honours, and she said mentors like Dr Julie Fragar had been ‘an inspiration’.
“I have always painted, but a career as an artist always seemed out of reach, until I came to Griffith,” she said.
“People like Julie have been instrumental in helping me paint the Australian landscape. She has kept me looking at what I love and shown me different ways forward with it.”
Awards showcase top talent at QCA
Queensland College of Art Director Derrick Cherrie said the awards illustrated the talent on display at the QCA.
“The fact that our students are consistently being recognised for their work at the highest levels shows the breadth and depth of talent we have at the QCA,” he said.
“All of the prize winners have turned out incredibly strong work, and these awards will provide a great start to their careers as artists.”