Hard rubbish earns Cattapan $80,000

Art award goes to artist for work based on the “humble discards” of a suburban home.

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Imagine a Raft (Hard Rubbish 4+5). All three panels
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Imagine a Raft (Hard Rubbish 4+5). Left hand panel.
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Imagine a Raft (Hard Rubbish 4+5). Centre panel.

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Melbourne-based artist Jon Cattapan has won this year’s Bulgari Art Award for his triptych entitled Imagine a Raft (Hard Rubbish 4+5). The award, one of Australia’s most valuable, consists of $50,000 for the painting acquisition by the Art Gallery of NSW and a residency in Italy valued at $30,000.

The three panel work, painted over a five year period, is based on what are described as “humble discards”, a pile of disused furniture waiting for the council collection trucks at the end of Cattapan’s street in Melbourne’s St Kilda. The discarded objects reminded the artist of a marooned vessel and started him thinking about broader issues of what we value and what we discard. How do simple belongings shape our sense of identity? And how, by extension, can global preoccupations with territories and surveillance inform the creative zeitgeist of our times?

Cattapan is one of Australia’s finest contemporary painters whose subject is often contemporary cities, both their architecture and organisation and how we inhabit them. His technique involves overlaying specific imagery with an abstract patterning.  His aim is to reference the digital matrixes through which contemporary information is received thus projecting global concerns via recognisable local references.

Wayne Tunnicliffe, head curator of Australian art at Art Gallery NSW was clearly delighted. “The Gallery has looked to acquire a major painting by Jon Cattapan for several years now and we are thrilled that the Bulgari Art Award will enable us to have Imagine a Raft (Hard Rubbish 4+5) for our permanent collection”, he said. “It is a tough but also lyrical painting, which finds a form of beauty in an unlikely subject matter.”

Cattapan’s work, which has been exhibited internationally, is in the collections of all Australian state museums and many regional galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. In 2008 Jon was Australia’s official war artist in Timor Leste and his resultant Night Vision works featured in the 2009 ABC TV program Artists at Work.

Jon Cattapan - Imagine A Raft from Louise Turley on Vimeo.

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