Valerie Taylor Art Prize Makes a Splash

Joan Ross announced as inaugural winner.

Words: Erin Irwin

A brand new art prize will make its debut this week, with the Valerie Taylor Art Prize for Ocean Advocacy set to honour art and art practices that raise awareness about the many challenges our marine habitats currently endure. In the face of globalisation and the increasing threats of overfishing, pollution, and the degradation of aquatic habitats, this prize will highlight human impact on ocean environments, and the practical solutions available to save them.

Organised by Blue World, the prize will be presented by the eponymous Valerie Taylor, a stalwart of oceanic conservationism and photographer and film maker. The winning work will receive $40,000, and all artworks will be for sale, with half of all proceeds to go to the not-for-profit Australian Marine Conservation Society.

The prize is invitational, with participating artists including Abdul Abdullah, Abdul Rahman Abdullah, Amrita Hepi, Angela Tiatia, Anna May Kirk, Caroline Rothwell, Clara Adolfs, Deborah Kelly, Dylan Mooney, Erin Coates, Ghost Net Collective, Gunybi Ganambarr, Guy Fredricks, Izabela Pluta, Janet Laurence, Jason Phu, Joan Ross, Jodie Whalen, Julian Meagher, Lara Merrett, Laura Jones, Peta Clancy, Piers Greville, Salote Tawale, Sam Doctor, Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, Seini Taumoepeau, Teho Ropeyarn and Valerie Taylor.

The exhibition of all the finalists will be on show for one night only, Thursday 8 June between 7 – 10pm at Carriageworks, Sydney. For information or to RSVP, visit the prize’s website here.

Update Thursday 8 June:

Artist Joan Ross has been named as the winner of the first Valerie Taylor Art Prize for Ocean Advocacy for her work The beginning of greed.

The work is a hand-painted digital print which references an incident in 1790, where colonisers netted a whole glut of salmon whilst fishing in Kirribilli to the detriment of the local population. An interdisciplinary artist, Ross is best known for her interrogations of colonial iconography using collaged elements.

“I have a huge love of the ocean and I’m happiest underwater” says the artist, “I have always been a champion of nature. This, combined with my obsession with the car crash of colonisation has led to the creation of this work. Snorkelling everyday reminds me of the fragile ecosystems that are under threat from climate change. Urgent action is needed now! I’m so excited to win this inaugural prize and to meet the legend Valerie Taylor!”

Two further Highly Commended prizes were awarded to Anna May Kirk for her sculptural installation work Whale Fall and Teho Ropeyarn for his print work Ipi (water, rain).

The prize’s namesake Valerie Taylor said that “it’s great to see so many people from the creative community working to secure a healthy future for the oceans. The artworks in the prize tell stories of a troubled ocean.”

This article was posted 5 June 2023.

Image: Joan Ross, The beginning of Greed. Courtesy: the artist, N.Smith Gallery, Sydney, and the Valerie Taylor Art Prize for Ocean Advocacy.

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