10 August 2023

Canberra artist draws on old piece of farm wire to create prizewinning work

| Sally Hopman
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Two women

Artist Robyn Campbell with ACT Arts Minister Tara Cheyne at the announcement of the inaugural winner of the ACT Historic Places Art Prize. Photo: Jim Smith.

Artist Robyn Campbell was in a bit of a dilemma.

She was supposed to be preparing for her solo exhibition later this year but was procrastinating.

A friend had told her about the inaugural ACT Historic Places Art Prize, a new opportunity for the region’s artists to create a work with a connection to a historic site in Canberra – in this case, Lanyon Homestead.

“There was something about this that made me quite curious so I went out to Lanyon and did a tour of the house, and from there, I got the beginning of an idea,” she said.

“I debated whether I should start on a new work or prepare for my solo show, but this idea I had just wouldn’t let me go … although at one point I ditched it,” she laughed.

She went back and forth to Lanyon a number of times, sometimes just wandering through the gardens, the homestead, or venturing beyond the farm gate.

At around the same time, the family farm at Henty, located between Albury and Wagga, was sold, a place where she had spent some of the happiest of her years.

Abstract artwork

Winner of the inaugural ACT Historic Places Art Prize, Dwelling Place, by Canberra artist, Robyn Campbell. Photo: ACT Government.

“I’d gone out there to help my brother clean up the paddocks,” she said. “And I found this piece of wire. All I could think of was how many times this bit of wire had been bent and twisted by, probably, my grandfather, my father and my brother.”

Robyn brought that bit of wire back to Canberra, and it took centre position in what was to become her prizewinning work, Dwelling Place.

“I suppose when I came back from the farm was when it all came together in my head,” she said.

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“I had started off quite literally but then as you go through the process it becomes more abstract – that’s when I got that spark of realisation about what I was going to do.

“After that, it was done in about an hour. It’s quite different to what I normally make,” the ceramic and glass artist said.

More than 90 works were submitted for the inaugural prize. The judges, Joanna Gilmour (National Portrait Gallery), Anna Wong (Cultural Facilities Corporation), Jodie Cunningham (Craft + Design Canberra) and Caroline Downer (Tuggeranong Arts Centre) curated them down to 28.

Four women looking at painting

ACT Historic Places Art Prize judges cast their eyes over Lynne Flemons’ entry Homage, which won the Tuggeranong Arts Centre Prize. From left: Joanna Gilmour (National Portrait Gallery), Anna Wong (Cultural Facilities Corporation), Jodie Cunningham (Craft + Design Canberra) and Caroline Downer (Tuggeranong Arts Centre). Photo: ACT Government.

Jessika Spencer took second place for her work, Ochre, Lynne Flemons won the Tuggeranong Arts Centre Prize for Homage, while Sue Peachey took out the ACT Craft + Design award for Elizabeth’s handkerchief with moth.

“This wonderful new art prize has supported the creation of new artworks and encouraged new forms of community engagement with one of Canberra’s most significant historic places,” ACT Arts Minister Tara Cheyne said.

READ ALSO Work on historic Lanyon tipped to secure its future for visitors

Museums and Heritage Director of ACT Galleries, Dr Anna Wong, said entries for the new prize represented the breadth and richness of the arts, craft and design in Canberra and the region.

“The judges were impressed by the quality of the works and depth of response to Lanyon Homestead. We are excited to provide new ways for Canberrans to interpret and engage with Canberra’s historic sites and creating opportunities for new artistic works and audience participation,” she said.

The inaugural ACT Historic Places Art Prize exhibition will be on show at Lanyon Homestead until Sunday 15 October. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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