National Works on Paper

For National Works on Paper 2022, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery presents the work of seventy-eight finalists in its biannual acquisitive award.

In an introductory essay to the National Works on Paper exhibition for 2022, Jenna Lee writes that “paper is part of our everyday lives, and it’s that almost mundane, everyday quality that I find the most special. When artists work with paper as their subject, material, and medium there is a transformation that happens. We take an accessible, common, almost universal substance and through our interactions and interventions with its surface, reveal and elevate its beauty.”  National Works on Paper examines both the transformative work that is carried out on and through paper by its artists, and the transformation that has taken place in the world since the last biannual exhibition – in 2020 – which is registered, considered, and interpreted by them.

Lee, an artist, designer, and finalist in the 2020 award, is joined on the judging panel by Max Delaney, Artistic Director and CEO at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Clothilde Bullen, Head of Indigenous Programs and Curator at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and Danny Lacy, Director at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. This panel have selected their seventy-eight finalists from a remarkable 900-odd entries from across Australia. The works of these finalists are conceptually and formally diverse, and respond to the histories of art on paper in Australia, and to the expansive possibilities of it as a medium – whether as the foundation for drawing, painting, or printing, as a three-dimensional medium, or as the matter of an artist’s book. 

Several notable works explore the form of the artist’s book, including contributions from Elizabeth Banfield, Brian Cheung,  and Deidre Bollo. Bollo’s Unsettled, 2022, for example, critically reappraises historical practices of topography and map-making in Australia’s colonial history, many of which were enabled by the use of paper. Megan Evans, similarly, explores the incoherences of the Appropriation Act and it’s 1865–65 documentation in ngurre tarra balances the books, 2021. Jennifer Buntine, Kate Gorringe-Smith, Lisa Jones, and Mandy Gunn explore the sculptural and three-dimensional possibilities of paper, while artists including Locust Jones, AHC (Andrew) McDonald, Nicholas Mangan, and Col Jordan are interested in works made as or of iterations, whether painted, drawn, or printed.

Having evolved from the galley’s Spring Festival of Drawing and Prints Acquisitive prizes, which began in 1973 and 1874 respectively, National Works on Paper is one of Australia’s most significant acquisitive prizes – not least for its major acquisitive award of $20,000. Since the prize’s inception in 1998, many new media have become readily available to artists, new art prizes have come and gone, and our relationships to the material around us – with the emergence of a truly digital age, yes, but also environmentally – have shifted irrevocably. What remains is the urgent call for artists to attend to the matter and the matters at hand, and the place of paper in this work. 

National Works on Paper
13 August – 27 November 2022
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria

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