When:Exhibition closes Saturday 2 September
Tuggeranong Arts Centre is delighted to announce the winner of the 2017 Empire Global Award is Euan Graham for his work "The Cat Bell."
The award judges, Caroline Hughes, Steven Holland and Louise Douglas were unanimous in their decision citing Euan’s response to the theme and how the work points to a moral conflict regarding the domestication of and love for cats to the detriment of native fauna.
“We were particularly struck by Euan’s skill in addressing this current local issue in an elegant and slightly sinister way,” the judges said.
The judges also selected 4 commendations from the 49 entries. They commended Frank Leskien’s From Coat to Arms, Matthew Dunne for Murray River, Phil Styles for his digital photograph Coat of Arms Carnage and Linda Davy for her sculptural piece Caged.
TAC CEO Rauny Worm says she is delighted with the community’s response to the theme.
“We received a range of responses exploring native and endangered species, animals used in food production and science, and relationships with animals on a personal/domestic scale.
While some artists took a soft approach to the theme, others presented work that is shocking, articulate and hard to ignore. These works encourage us to consider our treatment of animals.
The theme for the 2017 Award is taken from Mahatma Gandhi who said, ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
TAC Spoke to Euan about the win.
TAC – Last Thursday you were awarded $4k as winner of Tuggeranong Arts Centre’s Empire Global Art Award. What was it like to receive that kind of recognition?
EUAN – Yes, it’s very nice to receive this recognition, having practiced for 30 years and received honourable mentions along the way, it’s truly wonderful to finally turn that into a win. There are precious few accolades for visual artists, for what is usually a tireless and single-minded pursuit.
TAC – The winning work was a painting called ‘The Cat Bell’. Tell us the story behind the work. What made you decide to create this piece?
EUAN – “The Cat Bell” as a concept came to mind almost immediately after reading the quote “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated”. Placed in the context of a backyard bed of leaves, the family pet is depicted at the moment that it transforms into an adept predator. The duality of the cat intrigues me in this way, something primitive that lurks in all creatures like a fight or flight instinct. The cat holds this position of being both a beloved pet, pampered by owners and a sinister force contributing greatly to the destruction of native fauna.
My wife Catherine Jean-Krista took a beautiful photo some months back of a child’s toy nestled amongst autumn leaves, vivid earth yellow transitioning to burnt orange that sparked a whole set of new works. I love to draw and paint leaves, this has been a recurring pleasure for me. This can be traced back to the memory of a childhood couch embellished with an intricate William Morris design. I loved trying to find the beginning and end of the complex pattern which seemed to keep growing before my eyes. Beginning with traditional mediums of gouache, ink and pastel, the pictures flowed out and then I graduated to stencils, a technique prevalent in my work of recent years. I can quietly cut away while still spending time with the family in the evening in front of the TV. Spending “alone” time in the studio/garage is definitely a luxury when you have young children. You have to find ways to adjust your practice to the circumstances. The stencil technique I have developed works for me in this respect, and I enjoy the immediacy of the process after the hours spent on cutting out shapes. I use a cheap card commonly sold from hot dollar shops for the stencils so they aren’t designed for longevity. I can usually get three or four images, each one quite distinct as I prepare the surface in different ways with crayon, oil pastel and paint. It is interesting to see how the spray enamel takes differently across the surface creating a more painterly effect. Where the stencil lifts, lines become slightly blurred and it is in these faults that the life of the picture can be found.
TAC – What do you hope people will take away from your artwork and what is your opinion on Canberra as a cat containment zone?
EUAN – I think this is an excellent initiative as cats are responsible for the killing of over 50 species of native wild life. I have a friend who is a dedicated cat lover, and I would never wish for him to not be able to indulge his passion. His cat his been ill recently and yes, he has had to keep records on how often she pukes on the carpet, but this is really a small price to pay in protection of the eco system. There are benefits to cat’s as well, because owners are compelled to come up with creative ways of keeping their pet active and stimulated, such as in the use of cat runs in the backyard. Currently 12 suburbs have been declared cat containment zones around areas identified as particularly sensitive, however there is a push to make the ban Canberra wide which I would whole heartedly support. I hope the work can help in some small way to raise awareness of this issue.
TAC – What are you known for as an artist and what are your hopes and aspirations ?
EUAN – My work is often very personal, relating to places and experiences that I know well. I try to capture a deep resonance with my subject and in this way unveil my own feelings in an intelligible way. It is almost like a diary entry fully intended for a wider audience. I’m learning to weave subjects of broader significance into my work such as the refugee crises that pervades the media and impacts all of us. I was told once that great art must be of its time and capture the zeitgeist, and that this is a measure of its worth and relevance. I do aspire to be the best I can, to strive for excellence and to make a significant contribution to society through my art. I believe that artists have a role to play, beyond commercial values and effete judgments. I’d be happy to identify as a neo-folk artist connecting with people in a meaningful way. Of course I’d love my work to gain greater recognition, if only to afford me more time to paint! But I’m level headed and realistic and by no means does the hope for recognition impact on my desire to create and produce the best works I can. I began this journey as a 14 year old, and making pictures is now as essential for me as eating and breathing.
TAC – What subject matter do you usually address in your work and how was it working to a theme?
EUAN – Animals have frequently featured in my pictures, as protagonists and symbols of greater meaning. Franz Marc was an early influence and I return time and again to the theme of animals as a vehicle to elucidate pictorial ideas. The loyal dog representing obedience to life style and systems of living; The dead sheep symbolizing man’s degradation of the environment and the bird, a harbinger of hope and transition. I’ve painted cats before as well, the cat and the fiddle in my nursery rhyme phase; a pensive guardian on a street balcony and as a depiction of self with serenade eyes.
TAC – Why should people come and see the Empire Global exhibition at Tuggeranong Arts Centre?
EUAN – The exhibition is very diverse and strong. I think there is something here to please everyone. From the intricate realism of seasoned professionals to the bold interpretations of younger artists experimenting with their mediums with confidence and fun.
TAC – What are you working on now?
EUAN – My current series is entitled “little Rituals”. The works are faithful to the title in some instances, and touching on deeper aspects of human nature in others. The series picks up threads and topics that I have been interested in for many years and provides me with the opportunity to update certain compositions. I think this is important and is a common aspect of many artists work, revisiting certain themes, and giving them a new treatment. It ties in with the feeling that all my output can be seen as a single thing, not just a collection of isolated moments.
EUAN – These latest works are very much a Segway into what I would consider to be a very significant topic for me, being “duty of care”, which I hope will be a series of larger canvases with a street sensibility that I hope captures something of the essence of both being a parent and being a carer. I have worked in the field of disability support for 14 years now and have often been struck by the areas of cross over with all it takes to raise my own family.
TAC – How are you going to spend the $4K
EUAN – I am ridiculously short on materials at the moment, and could definitely use an injection of funds at this time. But I have four young children who are also a high priority with their music and dance lessons. I would also very much like to buy a new instrument. I write and record my own music under the fictitious band title “Romeo and Juliet Died Ok!”, and am always on the hunt for new and interesting sounds to introduce to the mix. My wife’s birthday is also a foot in two weeks, so a quiet and well-earned meal out could also be on the agenda.