On 19 March 2015, the Australia Council’s awards function united recipients of all art forms, for the first time, at a ceremony at Sydney’s Carriageworks hosted by Robyn Archer. In every area of life, awards may go to the loudest in the room (metaphorically speaking), but it is notable that in the peer-nominated Australia Council process, recipients are those who have truly and selflessly contributed to the arts, and on their way also aided other people’s journeys. Congratulations to all award recipients: Thomas Keneally (Lifetime Achievement in Literature), Alyson Evans (Community Arts and Cultural Development), Alysha Herrmann (Community Arts and Cultural Development), Tony Doyle (Community Arts and Cultural Development), Will Stubbs (Visual Arts Award, Advocate), Garry Stewart (Outstanding Achievement in Dance), Stelarc (who received the Australia Council Award for Outstanding Achievement in Emerging and Experimental Arts), for his sculptural practice in which his body has been his (often raw!) material, Bruce Gladden (Outstanding Achievement in Theatre) and Archie Roach (Don Banks Music Award).
This year’s Australia Council Visual Arts Award (Artist) went to Judy Watson – an artist whose internationally recognised practice has always embraced and encouraged the work of others with incredible generosity. Judy Watson’s written response is detailed below, and notes the significance of recognition of this nature. As Robyn Archer noted on the night, the awards mark, and are testimony to, “the rich seam of art in Australia”. Thanks to the Australia Council for ongoing support of Australian cultural life – it means much.
“What I couldn’t say on the night of the Australia Council Awards is that I am deeply honoured to have received the Visual Art Award. It was significant to hear such beautiful, heartfelt speeches from the other award winners and to be there with them. When I first heard that I had won the award I was in shock. I did have to sit under a big, shady tree up at Yarrabah in North Qld, where I was running an art workshop at the time. But it also opened up a space for me, a clearing out of detritus. It meant that I was able to think clearly and allow my imagination to bubble up with all sorts of ideas and possibilities. It has recharged my emotions and wellbeing. I know that my parents are immensely proud of me and I feel support from all of my family, friends and peers. I want to thank the Australia Council for supporting artists in all art forms. Art has been a life changing force for me and for many other people. I know how important it is as a vehicle for change, social justice and healing within many communities. I have seen people flower and grow as they get into the arts. Nothing for them or for me will ever be the same again.
Thank you to everyone who organised the awards and wrangled the artists, from the cleaners to the caterers to the managers. It was great to be a part of it.
Next week I will be making work alongside the lovely ladies from Euraba, doing work on site at Boggabilla, visiting lagoons and the river and significant sites in their country. The best part of being an artist is sharing the journey.” — Judy Watson, 21 March 2015