News, Reviews, Visual arts

Tending local talent

Review: The John Stringer Prize Exhibition ·
John Curtin Gallery ·
Review by Jaimi Wright ·

A city’s cultural identity, in a lot of ways, is like a garden; it must be nurtured and built from the existing bedrock. Pop-up Globe theatres will come and go, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But the best gardens, the cultural identities that flourish and endure, are ones that also tend to home-grown talent. The John Stringer Prize, currently showing at the John Curtin Gallery, is nurturing this kind of rich cultural identity for Perth, and the affecting works in this exhibition make for rewarding viewing.

The John Stringer Prize was created in 2015 to honour the memory of John Stringer, a past curator of The Stokes Collection and a passionate supporter of greater patronage to local artistic talent. Each year a panel of three arts professionals from the Collectors Club in Perth (one of Stringer’s enterprises) selects six Western Australian-based contemporary artists to exhibit in the Prize. Collectors Club members then choose the winner by secret ballot.

Ngamaru Bidu, ‘Nyurnma’, 2019, acryclic on canvas, 75.5 – 123cm.

The exhibited works for the 2019 Stringer Prize include an impressive and thought-provoking variety of contemporary art practices across multiple mediums, representing lived experiences from many cultural backgrounds. Photographer Rebecca Dagnall’s work explores the eeriness within nature as a psychological space. Martumilli artist Ngamaru Bidu’s artworks are a beautiful insight into Martu land and culture. Elham Eshraghian’s video piece is an emotionally resonant and hypnotic exploration of local Iranian diaspora. The artworks by Perth painter Kendall Gear are fascinating existential analyses of colloquial scenes and objects. Holly O’Meehan’s mixed media works, reminiscent of sea creatures, are both alien and intimately domestic. Finally the winning work of this year’s Prize, a kinetic installation by interdisciplinary artist Bjoern Rainer Adamson, is a brilliant inquiry into the nature of artificial intelligence.

By investing in and promoting the ingenuity, creativity and diversity of local contemporary artists, The John Stringer prize is a major contributor to the integrity of Perth’s cultural identity, a contribution that is made all the more significant in these last two years by its relocation to the public venue of the John Curtin Gallery. If the John Stringer Prize continues to support and develop local talent the way it has this year, Perth’s local cultural identity has a promising future.

Pictured top is the winning art work: Bjoern Rainer-Adamson, ‘Protozoon’, 2019, John Stringer Prize 2019 exhibition, installation view, JCG, 2019.

The Stringer Prize exhibition runs until December 8.

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