The Bega Valley’s ‘Shirl’ – changing the face of portraiture

2017 winner of The Shirl, Misklectic with Judge Tony Albert. Photo: Iain Dawson
2017 winner of The Shirl, Misklectic with Judge Tony Albert. Photo: Iain Dawson

Melbourne based artist Samantha Sommariva AKA Misklectic and her portrait of performance artist Mossy is the winner of Australia’s only youth portrait prize, the $10,000 ‘The Shirl’.

The Shirl is the little sister event to The Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award that also attracts a significant cash prize. Both prizes are supported by the Bega Valley Regional Gallery’s patron Peter Hannan in memory of his mother’s commitment to portraiture.

Renowned contemporary multimedia artist Tony Albert was judge for the second ‘Shirl’, selecting Misklectic from a field of 29 finalists from across Australia.

“The winning work is a video, a collaboration between two artistic friends and offers an amazing insight into each other’s practice and the way in which these two people respond to each other,” Mr Albert says.

“It’s a very challenging idea of what a portrait is and can do, and explores some of the most challenging social issues of the moment.”

In the artist’s statement accompanying the work, Misklectic explains.

“In this work I have been given the privilege of translating Mossy’s spoken work poem into a digital portrait,” she wrote.

“It has been an opportunity to demystify and humanise the concept of a trans-woman and to show the complexity of her identity, be it objectified, demonised, hyper-sexualised in all of her vulnerability, beauty and strength.

“Through our intimate exchange via the lens, this work contains visual symbols that reference our historical collaborations and celebrates our friendship, how we have influenced each other’s work and our artistic growth,” Misklectic wrote.

Click play to watch the winning work…

The winner of THE SHIRL National Youth Portrait Prize 2017 CONGRATULATIONS!!! MISKLECTIC AND MOSSY 333I’m Heredigital video3 m 18 s Our friendship started in art school, our early experimentation was Mossy’s first exploration in performative movement which she states was a prolific moment in her coming into woman hood and comfort in her body . Since then I have watched Mossy flourish on the stage and through our on going collaborations. In this work I have been given the privilege of translating Mossy’s spoken work poem into a digital portrait. It has been an opportunity to demystify and humanise the concept of a trans-woman and to show the complexity of her identity, be it objectified, demonised, hyper-sexualised in all of her vulnerability, beauty and strength. Through our intimate exchange via the lens, this work contains visual symbols that reference our historical collaborations and celebrates our friendship, how we have influenced each other's work and our artistic growth.Renowned contemporary multimedia artist Tony Albert was judge for the second ‘Shirl’, selecting Misklectic from a field of 29 finalists from across Australia. “The winning work is a video, a collaboration between two artistic friends and offers and amazing insight in to each other’s practise and the way in which these two people respond to each other,” Mr Albert said. “It’s a very challenging idea of what a portrait is and can do, and explores some of the most challenging social issues of the moment.” Tony was the 2017 Sulman Prize judge at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and has been an Archibald Prize finalist for the past two years, in addition to being one of the most sought after and influential contemporary artists working in Australia.

Posted by Bega Valley Regional Gallery on Friday, 6 October 2017

 

Tony Albert was the 2017 Sulman Prize judge at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and has been an Archibald Prize finalist for the past two years.

“I didn’t select the work specifically because it is a video, but because it really does stand out in a field of incredibly high calibre and diverse works,” Mr Albert says.

Bega Valley Regional Gallery Director Iain Dawson said The Shirl offers important recognition for up and coming artists aged 16 to 25.

“The first Shirl was won by Liam Ambrose in 2015, he really set a high bar but this year’s finalists have stepped up to the challenge,” he says.

“As Australia’s only youth portrait prize, we are creating something unique – bringing new focus and opportunity for artists, we can be very proud of what’s been achieved here.”

The Shirl wraps a big year in portraiture at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery, which hosted the prestigious Archibald Prize earlier in the year.

“There is great diversity on show in The Shirl,” Mr Dawson says.

“Not just in the faces and artwork hanging on the wall, but also the artists themselves, we have entries from high school students to those practicing at the country’s top art schools.

“People will be blown away by what they see here,” Mr Dawson says.

Liam Ambrose and his 2015 winner. Photo: BVRG
Liam Ambrose and his 2015 Shirl winner. Photo: BVRG

Tony Albert describes being a judge as daunting.

“It is such a privilege and an honour, my own history as an artist is part of the experience,” he says.

“Art is very subjective and if there was a different judge then there would be a different outcome.”

In reflecting further on his decision, Mr Albert described the winning work as very timely and relevant considering the age of the artists taking part.

“The portrait is of the performance artist Mossy doing a performance piece, for me it looks at issues of gender, identity, sexuality and challenging those ideas,” he says.

“The vibrant use of colours really standouts, which I think is a metaphor to reflect some of those strong ideas.”

Mr Albert says winning a youth art prize on the Gold Coast was a big turning point for his own career.

“And I’d encourage artists, don’t be disheartened. I have the biggest collection of rejection letters and I still get rejected yearly,” he laughs.

“These prizes are an opportunity to live and be an artist.”

Tony Albert's self portrait 'As on Me" a finalist in the 2017 Archibald. Photo: Art Gallery of NSW
Tony Albert’s self-portrait ‘As on Me” a finalist in the 2017 Archibald. Photo: Art Gallery of NSW

An aboriginal man for Townsville, Friday’s judging was the first time Mr Albert had been this far south in New Sout Wales.

His self-portrait ‘Ash on Me’ is part of this year’s Archibald Prize which closes October 22 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

His work is a comment on the influence of ‘Aboriginalia’ in the construction of Aboriginal identity, including his own.

In his self-portrait, Mr Albert uses his collection of “Aboriginalia’ ashtrays to personify what is often a generalised depiction of Indigenous culture.

“It was a challenge for me because I thought portraits were for old grey men in suits,” Mr Albert says.

“So I put in work that I would like to see when I see a show.

“I painted myself because to paint someone else is such a daunting task, with such responsibility, I really admire artists with the ability to paint someone else,” Mr Albert says.

With The Shirl being an acquisitive prize, Misklectic’s winning video portrait becomes part of the collection at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

The Shirl is on show until November 25 at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery in Bega, open Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm and Saturday’s 9am -12pm.

Disclaimer: Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council.

Marriage equality – have you got the energy for this? South East locals hope you do.

'Love Makes a Family' as seen at the 2016 Sydney Mardi Gras
‘Love Makes a Family’ as seen at the 2017 Sydney Mardi Gras. Source: C and N

The disappointment around the postal plebiscite on marriage equality is real and bitter for many, but it seems it is the only course of action available to bury this boring issue once and for all.

Boring because for so long the vast majority of Australian’s have understood that ‘Love is Love’ yet the months/years of political scratching around has disillusioned and disengaged the community.

There are those challenging this process in the High Court of Australia, describing it as unlawful; the full bench of the court will decide  on September 5 and 6.

The wheels of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, who will run this show, will continue to spin regradless – getting ready for the survey which is due to start just a week after the High Court decision.

While those in our community at the sharp end of this cheer on the High Court challenge, in the back of their mind they are also laying the ground work for the campaign ahead – mobilising as many people as possible to vote ‘yes’ in this non-compulsory process.

Bega Valley LGBTIQ advocate, Tas Fitzer says it took him a couple of days of reflection to work out the way ahead.

“I really understand the temptation for supporters of marriage equality to say ‘I am not voting, I am boycotting this process’, because it’s not a process we’d like to legitimise,” Tas says.

“We are giving a platform to debate that is going to be harmful to children of same sex couples, for young LGBTIQ people, and for people struggling with their identity.

“We don’t want to be here but we are here, this is something we have to deal with and the best way to deal with it is to take it head on,” he reasons.

Tas Fitzer. Source: Facebook
Tas Fitzer. Source: Facebook

Tas says he’ll be voting ‘yes’ and will be actively campaigning for others to do the same.

“Disagree with the process – absolutely, disagree with how it’s being done – absolutely, but let’s accept the fact we are here and make the most of it,” Tas says.

C and N are women who live on the Sapphire Coast and have been together for over two decades, they have a teenage son and are active members of a range of community and sporting organisations.

They have asked me not to use their names, mindful of the impact any publicity might have on their boy.

“For the first time in a very long time, I feel different and vulnerable, and that I have to somehow show evidence of how healthy, normal, and loving my relationship is with both my partner and son,” C says.

“How I live my life day to day and how I parent our child is under the microscope for those who don’t know us.

“And, I’m embarrassed for Australia – friends, colleagues, clients, people I know, across the age span, those with faith and those without, really don’t understand what the problem is, there is this sense of – really, we are still talking about marriage equality?,” C says.

Reflecting on the weeks ahead C and N believe there will be a relatively small but vocal group of people who will feel the postie poll gives them permission to voice their bigotry, to judge, attack, and say dreadful, hurtful, untrue and damaging things about the LGBTIQ community.

If it goes ahead, the result of the poll will be known on November 15 but it will be parliamentarians that ultimately decide if the Mariage Act can include same sex couples.

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has said he’ll be encouraging a ‘yes’ vote and if ‘yes’ wins his Liberal MP’s will be free to vote according to their conscience.

ABC South East reported this week that Anne Sudmalis, the Liberal Member for Gilmore which covers the northern end of the Eurobodalla, won’t reveal her personal view on same sex marriage.

The ABC said that Ms Sudmalis would stand up for what her electorate decides.

A survey on the issue conducted by Ms Sudmalis in October 2015 pointed to 62 percent approval for marriage equality in Gilmore, 36 percent were opposed, while the rest undecided – the ABC reported.

Colourful tutus with a clear message
Colourful Bega Valley tutus with a clear message at the 2017 Sydney Mardi Gras. Source: C and N

Labor’s Mike Kelly, the Federal Member for the neighbouring seat of Eden – Monaro told About Regional, “The fastest and cheapest way to deliver marriage equality is through a free vote in the Parliament, not a $122 million survey.”

“If we are going to be forced to take part in this farce then I think the best thing we can do is send the Turnbull Government a message they can’t ignore – vote yes for marriage equality,” Dr Kelly says.

Dr Kelly is urging eligible voters to enroll or update their details with the Australian Electoral Commission before August 24 so that they can take part in the marriage law survey.

The former Army colonel is hopeful the campaign ahead will be respectful and tolerant.

“I plead with everyone in our community to exercise the utmost civility and join with me in urging that we all refrain from engaging in misinformation or hurtful comments,” Dr Kelly says.

Twenty-one-year old Tas Fitzer is of a similar mindset.

“The mental health of some of our young LGBTIQ people is of real concern to me,” he says.

“That’s why I have decided to get out there and campaign for a ‘yes’ vote so that they can see there are people out there to support them.”

Click play to hear more from Tas…

 

Speaking with C and N in fading light this afternoon, both fear some in the community who would vote ‘yes’ are now unmotivated to take part given the level of discussion the issue has had over an extended period of time.

“Many people honestly don’t understand what the fuss is about and are exhausted by this debate,” N says.

“Because same sex marriage seems a no brainer to them, I’d implore people to realise that unfortunately for some Australians the idea is frightening and abhorrent.

“Giving free reign to people to say whatever they like, to judge us simply for not living our lives like them is scary, scary for us now and for the next generations,” N explains.

Both are hopeful people will push past the grubby, lengthy politics of the issue and find the energy and motivation to say ‘yes’.

Writing for About Regional almost 12 months ago on this issue, Iain Dawson the convener of Bega Valley for Marriage Equality asked people to walk in his shoes…

“John Howard’s change [to the Marriage Act] in 2004 defined marriage as ‘a union between a man and woman only’.

“I am incredulous that Australia still judges my relationship with the man I love, ‘to the exclusion of all others’ as less than equal to my peers, friends, and family.

“For those not yet convinced; put yourself in that equitation and see how it feels, what it says to your soul.

“80% of Australians want our leaders to change the Marriage Act.

“The majority of my countrymen see my relationship as equal; that gives me and the LGBTIQ community strength and hope,” Iain wrote.

Whatever happens in the High Court on September 5 and 6 this issue will remain unresolved, work still needs to be done to finish this, energy needs to be mustered.

As a heterosexual father of three, with friends and family seeking equality that I take for granted, I will find that energy, despite the shit sandwich we are being served, I ask you to do the same.

Thanks to About Regional members – Tim HoltAmanda StroudDeborah Dixon, and Nastasia Campanella for supporting local story telling.

Declaration: Tas Fitzer is a part-time Electorate Officer for Mike Kelly and former Country Labor candidate.

 

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional strives to capture the colour, wisdom, and issues of South East NSW, in episode two of the podcast…

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

* Long time Eurobodalla Council watcher Keith Dance wants to change the way Local Government is elected in NSW.

Having served two terms on Council and contested every election between 2000 and 2010, Keith believes the system encourages too many candidates to stand, which makes it impossible for voters to make an informed choice.

Keith reckons part of the solution comes from Victoria.

John Alcock and Howard Charles
John Alcock and Howard Charles

* The small Monaro town of Nimmitabel, south-east of Cooma is heading into summer with more water security than every before. A new dam has just opened on the outskirts of town.

Howard Charles and John Alcock are two of the fathers of the Lake Wallace Dam, both were keen to jump the fence and show me around.

* The Archibald Prize has just wrapped up for another year at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

But these famous faces aren’t being put away, they are hitting the road for a tour of regional NSW and Victoria – including the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

Gallery Director, Iain Dawson gives us a preview.

And a bush dance to finish with, the Kameruka Bush Orchestra in full flight.

Listening and streaming options:

Click here to listen via AudioBoom

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Coming soon to iTunes!