Well, I can’t tell you how excited I am to post this blog. What a great honour for urban, Indigenous artist Blak Douglas to win the 2019 Kilgour Art Prize with a portrait of Ursula Yovich ‘Queen of her Own Stage’.
Congratulations Adam, aka Blak Douglas. So well deserved for all your hard work within the community, with your message, with your art and to ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’!
As the great Dalai Lama once said, our struggle must remain non-violent and free of hatred. Art has and always will be one of the truest expressions of this. As more people catch on – through your poignant and powerful work and those of your fellow artists – little by little we will see the change we all dream of.
Rather than rattling on, I will pass you over to Blak Douglas in his own words – his speech at Friday night’s celebration at the Art Gallery of Newcastle on August 2nd 2019. (Sadly I was overseas and not able to attend, but there in absolute spirit!).
BLAK DOUGLAS Speech
“Being a visitor here, naturally I’d like to begin with my humble offering of acknowledgement to The Awabakal & Worimi ancestors, elders & current custodians of country on which we stand –
Lord Mayor, Councillors, Judges, Gallery staff & volunteers, dear supporting friends, fellow artists, assembled guests and reincarnated little beings of divinity…
This is an immeasurably historic moment for my people being the first Aboriginal artist to win this important prize.
I’d like to dedicate to the following peoples-
- my Mother & Father – Yvonne & Robert Hill
- my removed Dhungatti Grandmother Chlorine Morthem & Great Grandmother Cissy Drew
- and the late great artist & soul brother Chico Monks
- (each of whom have sadly passed).
Noting that the great painter Nicholas Harding was the first recipient of the prize, I reflect upon the time I witnessed Nicholas winning the 2001 Archibald Prize. A member of the media pack asked Nicholas – ‘how does it feel to win (then) $80k?’ Nicholas replied – ‘mate… I’ve been entering this prize for 17yrs now and if you were to add up the entry fees, materials, transport costs etc, I’d probably end up with enough to by you & I a beer’.
I believe most of us artists here tonight might echo that sentiment!
An acknowledgement and to Jack & Nancy Kilgour. One cannot simply run off with an award without paying dues to the bequest that enables it to continue. What a legacy it is when an ARTIST lays the stones that create the pathway for us to walk upon.(Cheers to Jack & Nancy)
Ms Ursula Yovich is a living hero of mine & a dear friend. Raised in Darwin. Her father, Slobodan Jovic, was a Serbian immigrant who anglicised his name to Stan Yovich. Her mother from North West Arnhem land near the Blythe River. The closest community being Maningrida.
Ursula has appeared in more than 20 theatre and musical theatre productions, including Capricornia, Mother Courage and her Children, The Sapphires, Natural Life, Nailed, The Sunshine Club, Jerry Springer the Opera, Nathaniel Storm, and The Adventures of Snugglepot & Cuddlepie and Little Ragged Blossom.
Ursula’s other screen & TV appearances are equally noteworthy including-
- Top End Wedding(2019) – Goldstone (2016) – The Code (2014) –
- The Gods of Wheat Street(2014) – Rake (2014) – Around the Block (2013)
- Redfern Now(2012-2013) – Devil’s Dust (2012) – Australia (2008) – $9.99 (2008)
Judges, Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton, Campbelltown Art Centre Director Michael Dagostino, and great artist Jon Cattapan (and especially to Lauretta & Lisa Kirkpatrick for the heart stopping phone call)… your astute selection of this piece is complimentary of the change I’ve personally been dreaming of for 20yrs now. Not just personally to win a majorly prestigious award such as this, but for recognition of Indigenous voice.
Next year marks the 250th anniversary of the great cartographer & navigator Lieutenant James Cook’s voyage to this continent of 300 Indigenous countries. Quite probably there’ll be no mad rush to add bronze statues of a local frontier resistance warrior to parks and reserves en-mass. Nor add the correct tribal names to municipality signage within every City & town across the continent. It’s time we married our fascination with local Aboriginal histories and legends with our bonafide fascination for patriotism and sport…
Here in this portrait, we celebrate a figurative memorial. A monument of what has historically proven to be one of the most disenfranchised voices on the continent, that of the Aboriginal female. The very individual whom is ACTUALLY… PHYSICALLY… our MOTHER.
There’s no stronger metaphor here… Ursula stands upon a chair in an unconsciously righteous pose. If you want to be heard, then STAND UP & BE COUNTED! BY the way… I specifically painted in only the four pigment colours of the earth. Red & Yellow Oxide, Back & White. Purely in homage to the old ways. My trademark cracked earth represents the ever increasing desert upon this continent and the ‘vapour trails’ form a hashtag in the sky. Effectively labelling the piece ‘# Queen of her own stage’. (Ohhh… & I’ve already created it on instagram so feel free to add to it)
I’d like you to look at this piece, photograph it, reproduce it (but not on tea towels) print it out and stick it on your fridge or in your studio or office or in the pool room…
(in fact there’s no need for that as I’ve printed you all a gift by way of a decal which is awaits you at the information desk)
‘Queen of her own stage’ IS your monument, your Goddess, your bonnet emblem and your reminder that, we should by now be grown up enough to raise our hand and demand constitutional reform AND a treaty for ALL Indigenous peoples AND perhaps… JUST PERHAPS… remove the training wheels and become an upright responsible republic (?!)
In closing I’d like to add a note to all my fellow entrants and aspiring & emerging artists…
As a veteran of two decades of art making and entering awards, I know only too well what it’s like to stand with one’s heart in the throat… anticipating.Our visual diaries are where our dreams manifest. The more content we add, the quicker the dreams shall burst free into the artistic ether… stand proud also & persevere.
It is with sincere thanks and unfathomable honour that I receive this prize. Thank you Newcastle Art Gallery & Council, Judges, affiliated sponsors and also to my representatives in NSW – Julian Edwards of JEFA Gallery & Simon Chan of Art Atrium & sponsors Colormaker Industries (Permaplastik Paints) & 3M Australia.
Thank you, BLAK DOUGLAS aka Adam HILL
The Kilgour Prize Finalists for 2019: Peter Barker, Anthony Bartok, Michael Bell, Eva Beltran, Karen Black, Leeroy Chapman, Tamara Dean, Blak Douglas, David Fairbairn, Sebastian Galloway, Peter Gardiner, Ben Gavin, Craig Handley, Jacqueline Hennessy, Tom Keukenmeester, Richard Lewer, Michael Lindeman, Robert Malherbe, Marie Mansfield, Siân McNabney, Joshua McPherson, Nigel Milsom, Lori Pensini, Stephen Pleban, Jordan Richardson, Melissa Ritchie, Jenny Rodgerson, Paul Ryan, Nick Santoro.