A scene from Ryan Lee’s Wonnarua
A “powerful and sensitive meditation on two seemingly irreconcilable approaches to land and Country” has taken top honours in the Frankston Arts Centre Open Exhibition Competition 2021. Wonnarua, a video installation by NSW conceptual artist Ryan Lee, was chosen by guest judge Simon Lawrie from 55 artworks submitted for the Australia-wide competition by local, regional Victoria and interstate artists.
Mr Lawrie, the curator at McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery, said: “Wonnarua captures well how things change at different speeds and often out of step with each other. While threatened by the industrial exploitation of traditional lands by non-Indigenous inhabitants, the cultural identity of the Wonnarua Nation remains strong. This is a powerful and sensitive meditation on two seemingly irreconcilable approaches to land and Country.”
Ryan said he was “absolutely chuffed” to take out the competition, which included a cash prize of $1000 and an exhibition and opening event at FAC next year. He described Wonnarua as a contemplative moving image installation work that aimed to provoke discussion around themes of Indigenous ways of living in juxtaposition with the Western settler-state system’s unsustainable, damaging ways of using stolen lands. “The video diptych contrasts living portraits of five Aboriginal people from the Wonnarua Nation with drone shots of the vast Muswellbrook coal mines, which are situated in the heart of the Wonnarua Nation.”
Frankston City Council’s arts and culture manager, Andrew Moon, said he hoped patrons would be able to visit the exhibition, which is on show at Cube 37 Gallery, when FAC reopens. In the meantime it can be viewed online at www.youtube.com/user/FrankstonArtsCentre
Frankston City Council Deputy Mayor Nathan Conroy said the competition was a major annual arts program that gave artists the opportunity to address a chosen theme through their choice of medium. “Whether it is a painting, sculpture, photography, video or textile, this year’s artists have explored the theme Change,” Cr Conroy said. “Inspired by pivotal global events, the theme was open to broad artistic interpretation and could be approached from a personal, social, historical, aesthetic or climatic perspective.”