Entries for the Bowness Photography Prize close soon!

Art News from Australia. Published by Monash Gallery of Art on Friday 26 June 2020.

Entries for the Bowness Photography Prize close soon! image

The Bowness Photography Prize is an important survey of contemporary photographic practice and one of the most prestigious prizes in the country, providing Australian artists with the opportunity to exhibit at one of Australia's leading public galleries. With less than two weeks left to enter the Bowness Photography Prize, we thought we’d look back and explore some past winners.

You can check out all the past winners here: mga.org.au/collection

This photograph, ’Venus’ (2013) forms part of Petrina Hicks’s series, The shadows, which is made up of 11 images. The series is typical of Hicks’s practice in that it uses portraiture and symbolism to deal with ideas of beauty, representation and the history of art. Like many of her photographs, ‘Venus’ is an unconventional portrait. It shows a young female model covering her face with a large conch shell, which Hicks uses as a symbol to critique the representation of women in art history and culture. For Hicks, the conch shell is a cross-cultural symbol of fertility, and her portrait references some of the earliest images of women, which often communicate ideas of fertility and childbirth.

The spiral formation of the conch shell not only symbolises fertility and female sexuality but also alludes to the Fibonacci sequence as it appears in nature. This mathematical sequence forms the basis of the golden mean, which, through the application of its proportions, has been used to explain perceptions of beauty in the human face.

With this work, Hicks won the 2014 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize.

‘The three judges were unanimous in selecting Petrina’s photograph as the winner of this year’s Bowness Photography Prize. It is a beautiful image that is both striking in its simplicity and profound in its historical and cultural associations. Petrina has been one of Australia’s most consistently significant photographers for many years now. ‘Venus’ reflects each of the key attributes of her work – great formal resolution, beautiful printing, pictorial innovation and genuine accessibility. Venus is a truly worthy winner of Australia’s most prestigious photography prize.’

— Shaune Lakin, former MGA Director and 2014 Bowness Photography Prize judge with former Director of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia Angus Trumble, Melbourne-based artist Siri Hayes