Showcase: 2016 Bankwest Art Prize, Sixteen of Perth’s Best.

– Eliana Bollati

The winner of the 2016 Bankwest Art Prize for sculpture was announced on Tuesday night at the opening of a free public exhibition showcasing the finalists. The Bankwest Art Prize is a biannual event, and the single largest prize granted to a Western Australian artist. The lucky recipient, Tarryn Gill, was awarded both the $30,000 prize and a place in Bankwest’s permanent art collection for her sculpture Guardian totem (with toad).

A soft sculpture, influenced by Haniwa, — Japanese tomb ornaments which protect the dead — Tarryn’s entry stands apart through its use of unconventional materials. Fabrics, sequins, gems and fur are drawn together to create the visage of her mesmerising seer. The use of modern materials with traditional themes creates a seamless blending of old and new.  “I really wanted to use these materials in unison,” Tarryn says. “I’ve only made one other Totem of this size.”

 Guardian totem (with toad) is part of a larger series of works that she has been working on for a few years now. Inspired by her residency at the Freud Museum in London, Tarryn describes these works as self-reflexive interrogations into the rituals and customs humanity has constructed around life and death. To create the sculptures, she blends her own personal memories with characters from mythology, pop culture and funerary art to evoke a space somewhere between the worldly and ethereal.

The event transformed the Bankwest Head Quarters in Raine Square from a CBD office building into a faultless gallery. Cleverly blending light, steel and multiple levels to ensure that each sculpture was given its own distinct space, and there was plenty of room for the 300 guests in attendance to admire the artwork from all sides.


Tarryn’s sculpture was one of 16 pieces selected as finalists by the panel from some 60 entries. Each entry was judged for its focus on three-dimensional art, its contemporary approach, innovation and conceptual refinement. When announcing the winner, Judge Charlote Day, Director of Monash University Museum of Art, acknowledged the exceptional talent and skill of each of the finalists, admitting, “although it’s a cliché, it was a tough decision.” Not surprising considering the diverse and inspiring collection of art on display which ranged across a wide variety of mediums and meanings.

Photo credit: Lepak Media

Theo Konig’s work Opus was created from a mix of materials repurposed from the organ renovations at the University of Australia’s Winthrop Hall. A musically inspired piece, whose contrasting dark and light parts and jutting wooden rods seem to capture the rhythm and frenzy of a Rachmaninoff piano concerto.

“Materials tell a story” says sculptor, Susan Flavell. Certainly her piece Piggy Bank is a narrative exploration whose delicate porcelain and gemstone sculpture seems to draw upon the legends and lore of ages past to create a new myth of its own.

Torbay artist Kevin Draper’s artwork Spoke explores the relationship between industry and nature. Described by draper as a reference and response to agricultural machinery left abandoned in the landscape, the captivating symmetry of the wheel and its melding with the wood evokes a sense of man’s passage of time.

Man and nature was also a theme for artist Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, whose sculpture Footprint explored the concept of human entitlement and its impact on the natural world. Abdullah carved the detailed bricks and intricate kangaroo skin entirely from wood, yet still managed to capture their natural textures.

Tick tick tickardy tock by Claire Bailey is a sculpture revolutionary in both design and concept. Claire fully takes advantage of space to create a twisted tower, complete with silver trumpets and a temperature gauge that reads dollar amounts, instead of Celsius. The face of a nun peeks out of the wooden circle at it’s top, and looms over a tiny, building block city. The piece invites some subtle, but poignant thoughts about consumerism, community and death.

Photo credit: Bankwest

Andrew Sunley Smith’s submission, Carbon Supremacy: Intake dissipator 1m³ continual combustion drag also explored a similar concept. A violent juxtaposition of burned and scored materials that illustrate the idea of “culture as an engine,” highlighting the daily impact our reliance on fossil fuels has on ourselves, and the world around us.

Artist Geoff Overheu also drew from nature, although his elaborate and ornate work instead examined the insignificant. His enchanting and ornamental bronze sculpture Ark featured a range of insects brought to life in a twirling spire that captivates the eye with its seemingly endless details.

Lou Lambert’s Café Paris infused aspects of the ocean with man-made mediums to create a striking and modern sculpture. Lambert’s careful attention to colour and detail and use of driftwood and pearlescent materials captured the raw beauty of the sea while presenting a stark contrast with the end result of fish on a plain plate.

Peter Dailey’s Repository was created from a combination of fibreglass, resin, wood, metal and found objects. The life sized, humanoid sculpture with its head adorned with archaic recording equipment posed thought provoking questions about the nature of our digitally archived existence.

Photo credit: Lepak Media

Crystal Clique by Mark Parfitt also borrowed from the force and fluidity of water to create his sculpture. The crisp white and curves of his plywood sculpture inspires a childlike innocence, which perfectly captures the ‘ungraceful dive of the bomby’. Parfitt cut each shape to mark a geographical time and place, so that when placed together the piece forms an ‘archive of autobiographical incidents.’

Angela McHarrie’s Within Bounds also used painted wood, curves, and angles to explore the interplay of system and contradiction. Nine separate sculptures were created, which when placed together create a visually appealing blend of shape and colour which plays with the constraints of geometry and measurement.

Utilizing the natural depths and shadows of dark acrylics and glass, Alistair Rowe’s Vault Edition 1/2 allows its viewers the opportunity to interact and engage with reflections of themselves and others. A pair of arched screens, stand on stilted legs mirroring each other and supporting each other in an interaction of colour and tone.

No. 22 Exchange delivers an interesting and innovative representation of economics in its artistic rendering of foreign currency and exchange. Artist Paul Caporn examines the relationship between art and exchange in his experimental sculpture which displays bars of silver bullion alongside the manuscript documenting the process involved in obtaining it.


The humanoid form was also a focal point of artist Paul Kaptein’s work. Mute Figure #3 is a hand carved wooden sculpture which marries traditional customs with surreal form. The detail in the grain contributes depth and texture to the two-headed man, whose symmetry invites an exploration of repetition, time and space.

Photo credit: Lepak Media

Damage by Mikaela Castledine was created as a response to media reports on child suicide. Mikaela used crochet paracord to create her multilayered sculpture. Each layer represents a layer in the life of a child suffering, the deliberate destruction of hours of delicate work is a powerful and emotive metaphor of suffering, while the choice of paracord comes to symbolise hope and redemption.

The exhibition will continue to be open to the public until March 10th 2017, while voting takes place for the People’s Choice Award. Submit your vote in person at the Bankwest Art Gallery, located at 300 Murray Street, Perth or visit bankwest.com.au/artprize.

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