With over 6,542 entries, the Bluethumb Art Prize was the perfect platform for stay-at-home artists during the pandemic lockdowns.
Founded in 2012, Bluethumb is an online gallery, and after months of behind-the-scenes action, the Bluethumb Art Prize winners ceremony was held for a second time virtually last week. With eight categories and 10 prizes, it was a hard contest.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander category winner is a an artist who lives locally – Anthony Walker whose mob are the Yiman, Gangalu and Gurreng Gurreng peoples of Central Queensland, lives in Byron Bay.
A inner connection to the landscape
Through his work, Walker engages with the natural environment and expresses his inner connection to the landscape. Having originally trained as a Park Ranger, Anthony also seeks to raise awareness about the preservation of native flora and fauna. Anthony draws inspiration from the landscape and coastlines of Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales, as well as his grandparents’ Country.
A Bluethumb spokesperson said that this year’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander category winner was quite divergent in style to previous years.
Walker describes his piece, Cape Byron, as a unique view from the base of Walgun (Cape Byron).
By superimposing traditional Aboriginal iconography over landscapes that are both familiar and distinctive, this is part of a covertly political series that welcomes viewers to look afresh at Country from a new perspective: a perspective that explicitly acknowledges ‘always was, always will be – Aboriginal land’.
A personal expression of connection to this place
Walker says he is super happy about winning this award. ‘It’s humbling that the feelings I’ve expressed in my painting have struck a chord with the judges. This artwork is special to me – it’s a personal expression of my connection to this place that I love and visit daily – a view of Arakwal Country from a First Nations perspective.
‘I feel really grateful and want to thank the Bluethumb staff and the art prize judges.’
The competition this year boasted an all-star artist judging panel including Ken Done, Kathrin Longhurst, Bronwyn Bancroft and last year’s winner Hubert Pareroultja.
Kathrin Longhurst, who is no novice when it comes to art competitions, has been a finalist in numerous awards including the Archibald Prize, the Darling Prize at the National Portrait Gallery and the Doug Moran Prize to name a few. She won the 2021 Archibald Packing Room Prize.
Longhurst said Cape Byron was definitely one of her favourites across the entire selection. ‘Cape Byron is a beautiful depiction of some of Australia’s most scenic coastal landscape that Walker feels deeply connected to. The painting has a distinctly Indigenous feel to it but at the same time feels incredibly contemporary and modern.
‘Walker manages to weave modern landscape painting with traditional storytelling and as a viewer, we are treated to a visual feast that speaks of love and passion for the land.’
The prizes and viewers choice voting
The overall prize winner’s money was $20,000, with all eight category awards worth $3,000.
You can vote for your five favourite artworks from the 400 finalists. Not only will you help the artists get one vote closer to winning Bluethumb’s $3,000 People’s Choice Award but you’ll also go in the running to win one of your votes valued up to $2,000.
Visit: bluethumb.com.au/competitions/prize-2021/votes to cast your vote.
Voting closes December 6.