An Otherworldly Art Prize Winner

Melbourne artist Kay Beynon is the winner of the 2016 Geelong Contemporary Art Prize, Geelong Gallery’s acquisitive award for contemporary painting.

Beynon’s narrative-rich, skilfully executed painting Graveyard scene/the beauty and sadness of bones 2014–15 is based on a scene from An-Li: a Chinese ghost tale and portrays the supernatural story of two young spirits who traverse opposing worlds: one aquatic, the other earthly.

The prize-winning work is the first by Beynon to be acquired by Geelong Gallery and reveals an interest in connections between mother and child, ancestral spirits, and the cycle of life and death.

Beynon, who emigrated to Australia from Hong Kong at the age of four, said personal references in the highly symbolic work include a bowl from her late maternal Chinese grandmother, with a phoenix as auspicious sign of transformation.

“The lion-dogs—protective guardian animals—relate to my Chinese zodiac year, while oranges as offerings reflect Buddhist ancestors.

“Although melancholy, there are signs of hope and healing. An-Li holds a heart sprouting like a vegetable, while a lotus flower unexpectedly blooms. Being able to germinate after a thousand years dormant, lotus seeds signify a connection to the earth and possible future beginnings.”

The 2016 Geelong Contemporary Art Prize received more than 550 entries from around Australia, with 33 works shortlisted for exhibition. The three judges were Victoria Lynn, Director, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Jason Smith, Director, Geelong Gallery, and Lisa Sullivan, Curator, Geelong Gallery.

“[The winning] work is highly refined in its pictorial organisation of interrelating forms and striking interactive colour, and quietly but exceptionally powerful in its poignant reflections on death, mourning, earthly life and the spiritual realm,” Jason Smith said on behalf of the panel.

“Kate’s touching interpretation of the Chinese ghost tale of An-Li has an emotional resonance with the images and stories of loss and grieving with which we are surrounded in a contemporary world: one in which conflict, terror and instability are counterpointed by the enduring beauty and resilience of nature and generosity of spirit.”

The Geelong Contemporary Art Prize is sponsored by the Dimmick Charitable Trust and assists with the development of the Gallery’s collection while supporting Australian artists and contemporary painting practice in general.

The winning work and other entries will be on display at Geelong Gallery until Sunday 13 November.

After hours at Geelong Gallery

View the Geelong Gallery’s collection in a different way during spring and summer with After Hours. Enjoy a guest DJ and pop-up wine and pizza bar at dusk on the first Friday of every month until the end of summer.

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