Bowness Photography Prize | Winner announced

'... understated but deeply affecting image' wins Bowness Photography Prize

Art Announcement from Australia. Published by Monash Gallery of Art on Friday 11 October 2019.

Bowness Photography Prize | Winner announced image

Katrin Koenning has won the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize with her work ‘Three’ from the series Lake Mountain (2018). The judging panel were unanimous in their decision to award Koenning the $30,000 acquisitive prize for her subtle and quiet image of the bushfire-ravaged landscape of Lake Mountain a decade after Black Saturday in 2009.

The judges – MGA Director, Anouska Phizacklea, Director of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Chris Saines and acclaimed artist, Dr Christian Thompson AO – would like to commend the recipients of the Colour Factory Honourable Mentions, Zia Atahi, Polly Borland and Angela Tiatia.

‘The 14th edition of the Bowness Photography Prize captures the zeitgeist of contemporary Australian photography as a reflection of the broader social and political environment within which we all live.

Katrin’s work speaks with quiet restraint about an issue that will define our generation – the loss of our landscape and the destruction of our planet. It is a powerful reflection on an intense event that left our bush in cinders and took a horrific toll on communities with the loss of so many loved ones. The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires left an indelible mark on Victorians and its memory is a stark reminder of the frailty of our communities and the environment, and our susceptibility to extreme weather events as our climate changes. We are delighted that this work will join MGA’s permanent collection.’

— Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director

‘This year’s Bowness Photography Prize was highly competitive with a vast array of high quality entries. After a prolonged debate about the works we were delighted to announce Katrin Koenning as the winner of the Bowness Photography Prize with her haunting and compelling triptych work from the series Lake Mountain.

The triptych is a poignant and timely work that fits into a larger conversation about the transience and fragility of the vulnerable nature of the Australian landscape. It is a quiet and considered work that speaks to the seductive and ethereal nature of Koenning’s oeuvre. It lingers and stays with you, it not only presents the reality of the issues we are dealing with but contextualises and invites enquiry.’

— Dr Christian Thompson AO

‘Katrin Koenning’s triptych Lake Mountain is an understated but deeply affecting image whose appearance could hardly be more timely. As parts of the country burn with unseasonal regularity and intensity, Koenning reminds us of the lasting damage to the landscape when bushfires reach such a level of ferocity that forest canopies explode and trees irredeemably blacken and die, struggling to regenerate long after the fire’s passing. In a moving lament for this loss, Koenning takes us close into the forest floor of this otherwise beautiful Victorian Alpine region, where a relatively young stand of trees are still, a decade on from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, all but bereft of living foliage. Even the undergrowth seems unable to right itself under the weight of what appears to be a light dusting of snow (albeit it feels, in this context, more reminiscent of ash). Bushfires, at the level in which we are increasingly experiencing them, can and do create their own kind of endless winter. Koenning’s eloquent requiem for Lake Mountain is a remarkably composed and restrained but still urgent and insistent cri de coeur. It asks us to reflect on the terms of our coexistence with nature, and their sustainability, in an age of environmental crisis.’

— Chris Saines, Director of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

‘Winning the Bowness Photography Prize is the greatest public acknowledgement of my practice to date. It is an indescribable feeling; this idea that after 12 years of never giving up you are being seen marks a truly moving moment to say the least. If one of the roles of the artist is to engage critically with the times in which they live, winning the Bowness enables me to continue doing so. I could not be more thankful, or more proud.’

— Katrin Koenning, artist

About Katrin Koenning

Koenning is a photographer from the Ruhrgebiet, Germany and relocated to Australia in her twenties. Koenning regularly exhibits her work in solo and group shows in Australia and internationally, including solo presentations at Paris Photo, 2017 and Hamburg Triennial of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Germany, 2018. In 2016 her first book, Astres Noirs (published by Chose Commune) received the Australian Photobook of the Year Award and was shortlisted for both Prix Nadar and the Paris Photo/Aperture First Book Award. Her work has been published widely in volumes such as Photographers’ Sketchbooks, Hijacked III, The New York Times, Financial Times Magazine, California Sunday Magazine, National Geographic, Der Spiegel Magazine, The Guardian, British Journal of Photography, Marie Clare, and ASX amongst others.

Koenning has previously been selected as a finalist in the Bowness Photography Prize in 2018 and 2014, when she was also awarded the People’s Choice Award.

Artist statement: Australia counts among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Increasingly extreme weather conditions are impacting destructively on environment and community. During the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires significant damage was caused at Lake Mountain, changing it forever. Continuing my engagement with ecological imaginaries, this triptych is part of a decade-long, site-specific work with a forest re-growing from injury, a mountain who owns my heart, and climate change. Lake Mountain is a work of love and return, in dialogue with a wounded living world. It is a work about Earth in trauma – fighting, pleading we change our violent ways.