Then there was Kelly Doley: the underdog of the Redlands Art Prize

Yes, we know. Ben Quilty has won the prestigious Redlands Art Prize with his portrait of his elderly father with judges Rachel Kent, Mark Harpley and curator Lindy Lee, among others, unanimous in their decision on the revealing portrait.

Quilty, winner of the established category was among 19 others, including Rodney Pople and Maria Fernanda, chosen to enter work into the prize. The artist’s work, Dad, explores notions of masculinity, the relationship between father and son and, more broadly, stringent ties to family. Dad, is colour-intense, painterly in nature and evocative in style – in other words, so characteristic of Quilty’s artistic agenda.

Said Kent, “This work presents a surprisingly frank portrait of the artist’s father, seated, with naked torso. In it, Quilty’s interest in masculinity is evident, as is the exploration of family and the father-son relationship. Is the father a willing sitter? I would guess not: his gaze is apprehensive, his eyes slightly averted, his posture pulling back into the chair. At the same time he is vulnerable in his nakedness and advanced age, seated before the scrutiny of the artist, his son.”

Let us not forget however, that this prize is as much about the emerging artists as it is about the established. Kelly Doley, a graduate from the College of Fine Arts, was named winner of the emerging artist category with her work, The Learning Centre: 46 Things Learnt About Humans. Doley’s winning work negotiates painting, performance and installation. Doley is a founding member of Sydney performance collaboration Brown Council.

“Over the past two years, I have undertaken an ongoing investigation into the sorts of principles, objectives and knowledge people uphold in order to find or maintain meaning in their lives. The blackboards are leftover from a lesson on Alchemy and a lesson on Indigenous Nyungar Culture. The book is a collation of everything I have learnt and includes quotes from Anarchists, to Christians, scientists and artists to Life Coaches and Shamans. Some profound, some banal,” said Doley.

Also worth noting is the fact that the prize, for the first time, is being hosted by the National Art School. Perhaps symbolic of the emerging talent the school fosters and of the many artistic greats the school has given birth to, the prize’s venue validates a sense of historical richness – a right of passage to artistic respect and cross-generational interpretation.

The Redlands Art Prize is currently showing at the National Art School Gallery, Darlinghurst, and is running until 2 August.

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