ARTS, feature -

Sunlight makes colours sing!

Mother-daughter duo Betty Chimney and Raylene Walatinna have been highly praised for their collaborative artwork Nganampa Ngura (Our Country) at the 2019 John Fries Award.

From South Australia, the women’s art piece explores the role of intergenerational learning in keeping stories of culture strong and long-lasting in both paint as well as Yankunytjatjara language.

“The painting itself is a bit like a map, showing specific landmarks and sites near our community,” Ms Chimney said in the John Fries Award catalogue.

“We worked consistently on this painting every day for about one month … When we brought the two panels outside and put them together to take some photographs the sunlight was making the colours really sing!”

The artists said they are painting what is truly important to them – their country, special sites, stories, and cultural heritage.

“The most important thing I want to say about mine and Raylene’s painting … I want to say it in our language Yankunytjatjara: Nganana Kuranyukutu Ma-Palyani,” Ms Chimney said.

“That means: ‘This is for our future generations.’ That’s what it’s all about really – we’re strong, proud women keeping our culture and connection to country strong for our future generations.”

Visual arts curator and writer Miriam Kelly curated this year’s John Fries Award Exhibition and said the judging process was very difficult as all artists presented ambitious and accomplished developments in their practices.

While Sydney artist Justine Youssef took home the $10,000 prize for her performative video installation Under the table I learnt how to feed you, Ms Chimney and Ms Walatinna also received special mention and celebration for their art across the board.

“The judges were also unanimous in highly commending the extraordinary painting my mother and daughter collaborative, Betty Chimney and Raylene Walatinna, Nganampa Ngura (Our Country),” Ms Kelly said.

“[This] role of intergenerational learning … bursts from every inch of this vibrant large-scale painting.”

Established in 2010, the John Fries Award recognises early career talents of Australian and New Zealand visual artists.

Award sponsor Copyright Agency’s CEO Adam Suckling said the John Fries Award “highlights the incredible talent of our local early career artists.”

Awards such as this strengthen and champion Australia’s contemporary art as it affords early career artists the space and time to create,” Mr Suckling said.

The exhibition at UNSW Galleries in Paddington displays the top ten finalists of the competition and runs from June 21 to July 27.

Each of the ten finalists receive $1,000 from the Copyright Agency.

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