Award-winning Bowral printmaker Tony Ameneiro has won the 2020 Kangaroo Valley Art Prize of $6000 for his haunting Nattai River Landscape.
The print was entered in the open section of Visual Arts in the Valley 2020, a biennial arts festival held over the October long weekend. The work was sold for $1450 even before the award was given.
"It was an outstanding piece," Gary Moore, the festival's visual arts director, said. "It's a very subtle work - subtle, but powerful. It doesn't jump out at you from the wall, partially because of its black-and-white presentation, with very fine lines. But it's ephemeral and and evocative."
Mr Ameneiro said he was surprised and excited to win the prize. "I was quite taken aback, and I was humbled and honoured to have won that award," Mr Ameneiro said.
The open section included all forms of two-dimensional visual art: photography, painting, video art, and drawing. "It was unusual for a print to win an open section prize; usually it goes to a painting," Mr Ameneiro said.
Mr Ameneiro has worked for many decades as a printmaker and draughtsman. He studied art at the Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education in Sydney 1978-81, and has exhibited professionally since 1981. He has been twice selected as commissioned print-artist for the Print Council of Australia, while his works are held in the British Museum and in Australian national and state galleries. He won the National 2007 Fremantle Print Award, and is a three-time finalist in the National Art School's prestigious Dobell Drawing Prize.
The print is part of a series based around the Crags, a site on the Nattai River where Fred Williams, one of Australia's best-known landscape painters, spent eight weeks drawing and painting in 1957.
"There's an homage to that period that he worked down there," Mr Ameneiro said. "I've gone back to that area, although not the same sites. I've been drawing on site and taking drawings back to the studio, working them up into bigger prints and drawings, and trying to evoke some sense of what's down there."
Most prints are made with black ink onto white paper; Nattai River Landscape, however, is printed with white ink onto a black background - almost like a photographic negative.
"It gives it an almost spiritual element which goes beyond the normal blank on white," Mr Ameneiro said. "It evokes another plane, or another element that goes beyond the first impression."
Printing white on black was an experiment - "a test to see what that plate would look like as an alternative". The prize-winning print also exists as a colour print and as black ink on white.
The winning work was purchased by a private collector; Mr Ameneiro intends to include it in an exhibition based around the Nattai Valley.
His print was one of 120 finalists whom Jane Cush, former director of the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, selected from among 630 entries. The works were judged by Sydney gallery owners Damien Minton and Brenda May.
In the open section, Amala Groom's The Visibility of Blackness was Highly Commended, and Catherine O'Donnell's Torn #2 was Commended.
"I'm always grateful to be selected as a finalist; you never take that for granted," Mr Ameneiro said. "It's quite rewarding to have won the prize - but it was a very good group of artists who were selected as finalists."