Lismore based artist Steven Giese has won the $20,000 biennial BRUNY18 art prize with his painting, Antipodean Study: Last Fish at High Tide.
Lismore based artist Steven Giese has won the $20,000 biennial BRUNY18 art prize with his painting, Antipodean Study: Last Fish at High Tide. Marc Stapelberg

Teacher takes out art award

THE head of Lismore TAFE's art department is proud to admit the saying "if you can't do it, teach it” does not apply to him.

Steven Giese has won the $20,000 biennial BRUNY18 art prize with his painting Antipodean Study: Last Fish at High Tide, which the respected Lismore artist used as an example of a work in development for his students.

The key theme of the BRUNY18 relates to concerns of humans and the environment and the judges were unanimous in naming Mr Giese as the winner.

"It is an incredible feeling to have won, I can't quite believe it,” he said.

Mr Giese said he would bring the painting into class at various stages to teach students what a work of art entails.

The final part of the process was to "take a risk, back what you believe in and enter the work in competitions”.

When Mr Giese presented the work to the BRUNY18 judges - Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney), Fiona Hall, Australia's representative at the 2015 Venice Biennale, and Jarrod Rawlins, curator at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) - he told them he was a teacher.

"Getting a win in the BRUNY18 was good for the teaching process as it gives students confidence in their teachers and inspires them to go ahead and put their own work out there,” he said.

"It has given me an enormous sense of validation and satisfaction that as an artist I can express what I believe in and be awarded such a big gong, at the same time as having a full-time job.”

Mr Giese said human existence and climate change were issues he believed in strongly as an artist, which was why he went to the huge cost of transporting his painting to Bruny Island in southern Tasmania for the competition.

The prize concept addressed the Art of Adaptation, sending a strong message that if we don't adapt catastrophe will occur.

The judges said they were intrigued by the multiplicity of complex issues dealt with in Mr Giese's painting, which is heavily influenced by Northern European Renaissance painters such as Hieronymus Bosch.

"The erupting clouds can be read as 'the smoking gun' of many of Australia's environmental problems of our time,” they said.

Mr Giese said the work was a post-apocalyptic view showing many different elements of the world we live in.

"There are people stuck on their phones, a priest with an arm around a child, people with houses on their backs as a metaphor for the population taking on mortgages they cannot afford,” he said.

"There are over-fishing references to the ocean but the big topic relates to the power our corporate sharks have in the world at the moment.”

Mr Giese believes the arts in the region are in a good place, having recovered from last year's flood with "a lot of talent, students and teachers working hard at Lismore TAFE at the moment”.

"The learning environment is very positive,” he said.

Paintings by 28 artists from around Australia, including nine Tasmanian painters, are currently on show at Alonnah Hall on Bruny Island until October 21.

This year, a selection of works from BRUNY18, including the winning entry, will also be exhibited at Kingston Beach Arts Hub from October 24-28.

Mayor Steve Wass will open the Kingston exhibition on October 24 at 5.30pm.

The exhibition will be open daily from 10am-4pm.

BRUNY18 is an initiative of the Bruny Island Foundation for the Arts and is supported by the local island community, corporate sponsors and the Kingborough Council.

The foundation is delighted to announce that the main prize for BRUNY20 will increase to $50,000.

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