26 year old Torres Straight Islander Daniel O’Shane has won this year’s National Works on Paper Prize, for his piece Aib Ene Zogo ni Pat (Story of Aib and the sacred waterhole).
Living and working in Cairns, O’Shane’s piece draws on his Torres Islands heritage.
Of the traditional story behind the work, O’Shane says:
“Meuram hunters found an unusually huge izerr (bailer shell) on Kerged Quay and filled it with water and paddled hard for hours. Thirsty, they drank from the izerr and to their surprise the water remained at the same level regardless of how much they drank. This was a magic izerr (zogo ni). Travelling further west, they arrived at their ged nor (home reef). Approaching Keirari from the east, they could see their people lining the shore to welcome them back. The zogo ni was hung up at night from a wongi tree where it could be seen by the hunters. But it was stolen by Aib, who dropped water from it as he ran, forming small waterholes. Pursued, Aib was eventually found, speared and killed, his body bursting with the sacred water. In this very spot there now exists the largest of three natural springs on Darnley Island in the Torres Straits.”
The National Works on Paper Prize celebrates artworks in the fields of drawing, paper sculpture, printmaking, and digital prints. It’s the most prestigious of its type in the country. O’Shane beat over sixty other short-listed entrants to the $50,000 prize, which was judged by Kirsty Grant, Director & CEO of the Heide Museum of Modern Art; Roger Butler, Senior Curator, Australian Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Australia and Jane Alexander, Director of Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.
The judges commented on O’Shane’s win, saying: “The winning work by Daniel O’Shane is remarkably accomplished and monumental in scale; created by a young artist, using the traditions of Torres Strait Islander art that has developed in Cairns over the last 20 years. Coming out of the histories of carving pearl shell, the intricacy of the cutting in this work is simply amazing.”
Victorian artist Lily Mae Martin also walked away with a $3500 prize, winning the Ursula Hoff Institute Emerging Artist Prize, for her piece Wrestling Three.
An exhibition of some of the work featured in the competition, including that of O’Shane and Martin, will run at the Morningside Peninsula Regional Gallery until September 11th, a gallery which has helped fund the National Works on Paper Prize since the 1970s.
Image credit: DANIEL O’SHANE, 1990, Cairns, Aib Ene Zogo ni Pat (Story of Aib and the sacred waterhole) 2015, vinylcut, handcoloured, handwiped (watercolour), 120.0 x 220.0 cm