2017 Bermingham Prize winners announced

The winner of the inaugural ‘Elaine Bermingham National Watercolour Prize in Landscape Painting’ 2017 is Jackson Slattery for his artwork ‘Trafalgar/Mile Ex’ 2016.

This diptych is composed of an image from Slattery’s family home in Trafalgar, Gippsland (Victoria) and a found image of a squat in Montreal, Quebec (Canada). Slattery’s practice attempts to walk the line between sincerity and indifference, both conceptually and formally. By collecting disparate and diverse images and meticulously reconstructing them, Slattery alludes to a narrative of events that is concerned as much with fiction as with the realities from which they are extracted. Slattery goes to great lengths to minimise any sense of preciousness in his watercolours, with a tendency to paint squalor and decrepit objects to create works that are equally disjunctive and elusive.

Since graduating from RMIT University (Melbourne) in 2004 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Slattery has had over 12 solo exhibitions, and participated in multiple group shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Japan and the United States. Slattery is represented by Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, and divides his time between Melbourne and Montreal.

Guest judge Michael Zavros awarded the non-acquisitive prize money of $20,000, generously donated by the late Elaine Bermingham, at the opening of the finalists’ exhibition at QCA Galleries, Griffith University on Friday 10 February. Michael said “The standard of entries to the inauguralprize is very high and demonstrates the length and breadth of contemporary watercolour practice in Australia today. The winning work by acclaimed Melbourne/Montreal artist Jackson Slattery blends virtuoso painting technique with conceptual rigour”.

The Highly Commended prizes of $2,000 each, were also presented on the evening. These were awarded to Sam Cranstoun for his artwork ‘Holiday, oh Holiday’ and Belem Left for his artwork, ‘Flat Earther’.

Cranstoun’s work is comprised of two watercolour works, one mounted on top of the other — the foreground is an image of Princess Diana and Prince Charles with their children on holiday, superimposed onto a nondescript seascape; the background is a recreation of the pattern on Diana’s dress. This work continues Cranstoun’s investigation of how image culture shapes a collective understanding of our environment and surroundings.

Lett’s more abstract approach in his artwork ‘Flat Earther’ explores human gesture and approximation through a tongue-in-cheek reference to the futile and very human pursuit of perfection. The asymmetry creates patterns which can be interpreted as familiar, recognisable forms; such as faces, trees and figures.

The 22 finalists were selected by a panel comprising of Angela Goddard, Director of Griffith Artworks, Griffith University; Dr Chris Bennie, Artist and QCA Lecturer and Dr Julie Fragar, Artist and QCA Lecturer.

The exhibition of all finalists’ work can be seen at the Webb Gallery until 25 February.

Webb Gallery
Webb Centre, 226 Grey Street
South Bank QLD 4101
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm.


Image: Jackson Slattery, Trafalgar/Mile-Ex 2016 (detail), watercolour on paper, 27.5 x 35.5cm, Courtesy of the artist and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne.