Calleen winner shows yearning for childhood

Jenni Fagan, Calleen winner Zoe Young, Peter Fagan and judge Steven Alderton. Photo supplied.
Jenni Fagan, Calleen winner Zoe Young, Peter Fagan and judge Steven Alderton. Photo supplied.

In these uncertain and chaotic times, this year's range of Calleen Art Award finalists have addressed topics such as the bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic.

But a yearning for simplicity and childhood innocence captured the eye of judge Steven Alderton, with Zoe Young's work "On the Farm" taking out this year's prize.

Accepting the award during a virtual presentation at the Cowra Regional Art Gallery on Saturday night, Ms Young said the work started a commissioned piece.

"I do very personal work so I wasn't expecting any accolades for this work, I really did this work to explore the idea of childhood, both my own and the vision I have for my children's world," she said.

"As a parent, on certain days, I struggle to navigate the modern, digital work for my children, who are the same age as my friends depicted in this painting in the 1970s.

"Living in town, I yearn for the space of the farm of my childhood for my children I guess."

"It was also a bigger part of the process of a personal commission with a friend who had passed away."

The painting depicts a scene inspired by a photograph given to Ms Young by Judith Cook in honour of her late son Ben.

Ms Young said the work also reflects her own childhood, where she spent time in Cowra with her cousins.

"I did this work especially for the Calleen Art Award to show my gratitude for the glorious fun of my childhood adventures with my cousins in Cowra," she said.

Ms Young said the painting also marked a departure from her regular practice.

"I moved from using a brush to incorporating a palette knife to apply paint, it's refreshed my practice," she said.

Mr Alderton said the painting looks back at the past.

"The work is very sculptural, the matte colours... you feel that history and heritage," he said.

He said finalists produced "diverse and revered work", with many choosing to address the issues faced during 2020.

"What became evident as we were looking around the work is that there are lots of artists talking about our time," he said.

"Lots of artists talking about the pandemic, talking about bushfire, talking about our state of affairs in 2020 and how they've reacted either physically in the studio or personally in their subject matter, and artists talking about how they deal with the situation.

"What I was encouraged by was the optimism of the artists, by assessing our situation and how to get through it."

Cowra Mayor, Councillor Bill West congratulated the finalists in the exhibition.

"I think this is an absolutely wonderful exhibition and I would acknowledge and congratulate those 300 odd artists who have put forward pieces of work for this exhibition," he said.

The exhibition runs from October 4 till November 15 at Cowra Regional Art Gallery, where viewers have the chance to submit their vote for the 2020 People's Choice award winner.