Winner: Kate JUST, SAFE BANNER, 2014, bricklayer’s yarn, retroflective thread, nylon, cotton, aluminium, 120 x 200 x 2.5cm
The Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award 2015 exhibition was officially launched on Saturday 13 June. Over 120 people including artists and visitors from areas across the state as well as the ACT & NSW came to hear who was to be announced the recipient of the $10,000 prize – which was the largest awarded in the exhibition’s eight-year history.
Judge Katie Somerville, Senior Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria acknowledged the incredible depth of talent in the exhibition and the variety of approaches explored by the artists when making their work. She applauded artists who had taken traditional techniques and materials and combined them into works which reflected contemporary issues, ideas and forms. Ms Somerville selected two works to be highly commended, Susie Losch’s installation piece Teasel which incorporates dried flower heads known as ‘teasels’ which were traditionally used to comb wool before the invention of metal cards; and John Parkes’ piece Quilt For The Ironing Board – Ironing Bored which has reinterpreted a vintage ironing board cover and linen with thousands of colour-toned hand stitches.
The crowd waited with bated breath to hear which of the 47 finalists would receive the award, and luckily Melbourne artist Kate Just was there to hear her piece SAFE BANNER announced as the winner. Ms Somerville said she was moved by the collaborative way Just had created her work, working with community members across Melbourne to create the knitted squares of builders twine that were pieced together to make the banner. She also acknowledged that the projects which resulted in the banner’s creation, along with the associated photographs of public walks with the banners, highlighted the issue of violence against women which is incredibly pertinent to Australian contemporary society in 2015. Ms Just said after the announcement, “Winning this award for SAFE BANNER is very significant for me. I have spent the last three years producing a range of community engaged projects, many of them to do with envisioning a better, less violent world. I am thrilled that this sombre but also hopeful work, produced by so many optimistic hands, will have its home in Wangaratta, in a respected textile collection that holds the work of artists I deeply admire. I am very pleased that the funds from the prize will also provide much needed future support for projects and residencies slated in Japan, New York and Melbourne over the next year!”
Following the excitement of the award announcement and opening of the exhibition, the attentive audience were treated to a series of artist talks by four of the exhibiting artists – Naomi Zouwer from Canberra, Beth Peters from Chiltern, Maureen Locke-Maclean from the NSW Central Coast and award winner Kate Just from Melbourne. Each of the artists gave personal insights into their respective practices and the concepts and techniques used to create their works.