Winner Announced for the John Fries Award 2017

August 11, 2017

Winner Kuba Dorabialski with his winning work at the UNSW Galleries. Photo: David Varga.

Copyright Agency | Viscopy has announced the winner of its prestigious annual John Fries Award 2017 which recognises the talents of early career visual artists from Australia and New Zealand with a $10,000 non-acquisitive art award. The John Fries Award 2017, now in its eighth year, will be presented to the winning artist at the opening of the exhibition featuring the 12 finalist works on Friday 11th August at Sydney’s UNSW Galleries. The exhibition is open to the public from 12 August – 2 September 2017.

The John Fries Award 2017 has been awarded to Kuba Dorabialski a Sydney artist originally from Wrocław, Poland. The winning single channel video work was created as a new work for the award. Invocation Trilogy #1: Floor Dance of Lenin’s Resurrection 2017 was selected by the judges who acknowledged the ambitious and complex work for its exploration of a broad range of topics from architecture to literature, as well as its high production values and finely tuned humour.

Dorabialski says, ‘My work, primarily video and video installation, attempts to reconcile Modernism with mysticism, and radical leftist politics with the personal poetic. I’m interested in the thin and uncertain border between nostalgia and sentimentality, especially for the recent soviet past.’

John Fries Award 2017 curator Consuelo Cavaniglia says, ‘Kuba’s work is layered and detailed, you can return to it many times and continue to find new details and subtleties. It is humourous and serious at the same time. The work makes references across disciplines – from architecture and film to literature and theatre. It is an ambitious work that shows commitment and dedication as well as risk-taking.

Its engagement with history is handled in an engaging manner. His interest in language is both historical and contemporary, with many considerations finding resonance in the current political and social climate.’

The highly commended work for the John Fries Award 2017 was awarded to Barayuwa Munuŋgurr from Yirrkala, Northern Territory for his works titled Ngaraka (bones of the whale) at Yarrinya Maypiny 2017, and Napunda (snake/lightning/cloud/clapsticks), 2017. Barayuwa works primarily in sculpture and painting, he is a skilled maker of yiḏaki, gaḻpu (spear-throwers), gara (spears) and biḻma (clap-sticks). His work depicts his own Djapu clan designs as well as his mother’s Munyuku clan designs. Extending on traditional designs through his own interpretation, Barayuwa’s work shows an experimental approach characteristic of a younger generation of artists now working at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka.

Twelve finalists, Amanda Williams, Angela Tiatia, Anwar Young, Barayuwa Munuŋgurr, Ben Leslie, Bridget Reweti, Claudia Nicholson, Ella Sutherland, Faye d’Evie, Kathy Ramsey, Kuba Dorabialski and Tina Havelock Stevens, were selected by the judges from over 600 entries and are featured in the John Fries Award 2017 exhibition at UNSW Galleries, the award’s presenting partner, until September 2.

Consuelo Cavaniglia says. ‘The Award was established as supporting early career artists and it continues to do so. It identifies a stage of practice to focus on, and supports artists in this beginning stage to take their practice to the next level, to grow their ambition and reach. Early career artists have a great dynamism and energy and this is evident in the Award exhibition. There were connections across many of the works, from ideas related to history to investigations of culture and identity.’

The John Fries Award was established by the Fries family in 2010 in memory of former Viscopy Director and Honorary Treasurer, John Fries, who made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of the organisation. The prize money is donated by the Fries family in his memory.

The 2017 John Fries Award winner was determined by a panel of guest judges: Consuelo Cavaniglia Guest Curator of JFA 2017-2018; Melanie Oliver, Senior Curator and Programs Manager at The Dowse Art Museum, Wellington; Clothilde Bullen, Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art; Fiona Lowry, multi-award winning artist (Archibald Prize, Moran Prize, Fleurieu Landscape Prize); and Kath Fries, artist, Viscopy board member, Chair of the John Fries Award committee and daughter of the late John Fries.

Kath Fries says, ‘The John Fries Award is an annual non-acquisitive award of $10,000 for an early career artist, but more than that, it supports a number of artists through the finalists’ exhibition; helping them to build their practices working with a professional curator, gallery and organisation on a national level.

The award connects these artists with Copyright Agency | Viscopy, assisting them with developing their careers and to better understand, and benefit from, the value of their artworks when reproduced.  So the John Fries Award is much more than just a single winner, or even an exhibition, it is interconnected with the wider visual arts community and Copyright Agency | Viscopy ’s role in building a more resilient creative economy where new artistic expression is valued and artists are fairly acknowledged and financially rewarded for the time, energy and skill involved in creating their work.’ Kath Fries comments.