Adjudicator Tracy Cooper-Lavery praises quality of work at 45th Muswellbrook Art Prize

IMPRESSED: Adjudicator Tracy Cooper-Lavery and Bengalla Mining Company CEO Cam Halfpenny with the winning painting, ‘Ngura (Country), at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre.
IMPRESSED: Adjudicator Tracy Cooper-Lavery and Bengalla Mining Company CEO Cam Halfpenny with the winning painting, ‘Ngura (Country), at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre.

ADJUDICATOR Tracy Cooper-Lavery has praised the quality of work displayed at the 45th Muswellbrook Art Prize.

Former stockman Alec Baker secured the highest plaudits – and $50,000 purse – for his fantastic painting entitled ‘Ngura (Country) at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre on Saturday night.

“It’s a very significant work in this exhibition,” Ms Cooper-Lavery said.

“Alec is a senior indigenous artist from the APY lands.

“He’s one of the original founders of Iwantja Arts – a not-for-profit corporation still owned and operated by Aboriginal people.

“The revenue [of that] goes back to the community and provides opportunities, training and careers development for artists.

“This win will be such an important announcement for them.”

Although Mr Baker was not present at the function, his bio stated:

“I did lots of jobs at the station and was always riding, doing stock work out on the country,” he explained.

“We’ve been teaching people the stories we have, and about our culture, and knowledge of this land.

“I’m thinking, when I’m making my paintings, how to make a good painting, a strong one.

“Sometimes I’m thinking about the colours, sometimes I’m just thinking from my memory of all the country I’ve been at; all the stories I have.”

Ms Cooper-Lavery admitted her role was “extremely hard”.

“There’s such a diverse range – including 26 works in the painting [section],” she said.

“It certainly wasn’t easy.

“But, I feel incredibly honoured to judge the Muswellbrook Art Prize.”

Kiata Mason pocketed $10,000 after claiming the works on paper category with The Studio Chair.

The $10,000 ceramic prize went to Megan Puls for Nightshade. 

A big crowd was on hand at the gallery for the announcement – and official opening of the prestigious exhibition, which will continue until May 6.

“It’s great to see the response here [tonight],” Muswellbrook Shire mayor Martin Rush said.

“Twenty-three, of the 46 artists, are in attendance, which is terrific.

“We have a long tradition of attracting the best in Australian contemporary art.

“This year is no exception and features works of the highest standard in all three categories.

“Council also acknowledges the generous support of the Bengalla Mining Company for their sponsorship and ongoing commitment to the Muswellbrook Art Prize over the past 24 years.”