National Works on Paper Awards

Above: James Tylor and Laura Wills, The Forgotten Wars, 2017, coloured pencil on photographic print, 5 sheets, each 50 x 50 cm. right: Solomon Booth, Dhangal Urgnu Tadiak, 2017, lino cut print, 190 x 124 cm. Below: David Bosun, Kubilaw Ulakal, 2017, lino cut print, 240 x 124 cm. Bottom: Godwin Bradbeer, Imago – 1000 Tears, 2018, chinagraph, pastel and acrylic medium, 152 x 128 cm.

Nicolas Rivet finds out about the winning entry in the National Works on Paper prize at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.


After a lengthy selection process involving more than 1000 applications, the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery’s National Works on Paper was awarded to James Tylor and Laura Wills for their collaborative work The Forgotten Wars—an allusion to the Australian frontier wars between Indigenous Australians and white settlers spanning almost 150 years.


Established in 1998, the National Works on Paper award is now recognised as one of the country’s most prestigious awards of its kind, and with its biennial exhibition, it intends to support and promote contemporary Australian artists who work on or with paper.


This year’s judges—Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery Director Jane Alexander, TarraWarra Museum of Art Director Victoria Lynn and Ian Potter Museum of Art Curator of Academic Programs (Research) Kyla McFarlane—spent an entire day shortlisting 63 finalists whose works were later displayed in the exhibition. There, the judges eventually returned to select a winner.


The gallery’s senior curator Danny Lacy attributes the challenging process to the incredible quality of work submitted across the board.


‘The great thing about National Works on Paper is the diversity you see within the works,’ Lacy says. ‘It really does capture an insightful snapshot of current contemporary practice. Paper is the foundation and the many ways in which artists use it never ceases to amaze our audience.’


With such a range of techniques having been incorporated into the works, the prize showcases everything from traditional drawings and digital prints to sculptural pieces.

Described by Lacy as a ‘beautiful but conceptually intelligent piece of work’, the winning entry is composed of five panels that overlay Tylor’s black and white photographs of the Australian rural landscape with Wills’ coloured drawings, influenced by various cartographic sources referencing the colonisation of Australia.


Lacy says the artists succeeded on several levels. As the two layers interweave, viewers are initially intrigued until, on closer inspection, they are confronted by the complexity of the work.


In their statement, Tylor and Wills say: ‘This collaborative project between an Indigenous and a Non-Indigenous Australian artist helps to find a way to decolonise the telling of stories about Australian frontier wars in mainstream society in Australia.’ This, according to Lacy, raises an important discussion about the history of this nation and the rethinking of its representation—an idea that is sure to resonate with viewers.


National Works on Paper is on display at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery until 9 September and features the entries of all shortlisted finalists.