All in the family: the winning painting touches on matters of mortality and motherhood

Linda Judge has won the 2024 Bayside Painting Prize.
Linda Judge. Bayside Painting Prize. Image is a painting of a short grey-haired woman in a black round neck top holding up a loosely woven grey textile in front of her.

Reflections on ageing, creativity and motherhood led Linda Judge to win this year’s Bayside Painting Prize. The work, Self Portrait as My Mother, was selected from a group of 46 finalists drawn from over 600 entries across Australia. In her artist statement, Judge included a poem that began with these evocative lines: ‘Her warp is eroded/leaving weft with no/secure base to stitch/body and mind.’

Her painting, alongside those from other finalists, is now on display at Bayside Gallery until 23 June 2024.

The Prize is a celebration of contemporary Australian painting, with the finalist exhibition bringing together a broad range of artists, both established and emerging, whose varied and eclectic approaches to the painted medium convey the breadth and diversity of painting in Australia today. 

As the only annual prize for painting in Victoria, the finalist exhibition is an important platform for painters from around the country.

Judge received formal training at the VCA before finishing an MA at RMIT. ‘I grew up with a father who was also an artist and a previous winner of the Brighton City Council Aquisitive Prize in 1980, so his painting is still part of the collection,’ she tells ArtsHub. 

The artist’s métier is multidisciplinary; she thrives on hybridity and cross-pollination of both materials and creative art forms. ‘My practice includes combining a range of materials, including textiles, collage, printmaking and painting techniques. Lately, I have also begun exploring ekphrastic poetry,’ she says. ‘Over a period of 40 years as a practising artist I’ve had a lot of opportunity to develop skills with different mediums and portraiture, particularly self-portraiture. It’s a way for me to see how my painting techniques become honed over time.’

As for her winning work, Judge approached its creation methodically. ‘I often set myself a problem,’ she explains. ‘For this painting it was how to combine portraiture with a non-objective form. This led me to experiment with combining certain processes and materials. As an established artist, there is so much we don’t need to rationalise, because we can trust ourselves to say the important stuff.’

Self Portrait as My Mother was created using several processes, including painting, textiles and mono printing.

Judge is jubilant about her successful entry. ‘Although my practice is not limited to this form, I majored in painting and it is still close to my heart. The generosity of Bayside City Council – which has recently increased the value of the prize – will make a real difference to me as my work hasn’t been supported in an otherwise commercial sense. It’s difficult to find support when your practice is largely experimental and your work may not fit into a linear curatorial premise.  

‘An artist I know texted me after I won the award to say that she loves how I have always made the work I’ve wanted and needed to make. This is at the heart of my practice, and I think I have been around for so long because of this,’ adds Judge.

‘I’ve had periods in my life where I haven’t been able to devote a lot of time to making art or had the emotional capacity to think about it for an audience, but the mucking about in the studio has meant that through these periods I have been able to drip feed my practice. When I have emerged from periods of inaction brought about by grief (or by the demands of bringing up three children on my own) the work is still waiting for me.’ 

This year the prize money was elevated with a major prize of $25,000. There is also a $10,000 acquisitive Beckett Local Prize – which honours Beaumaris-based modernist Clarice Beckett and ensures that Bayside City Council grows its art collection with work that reflects the area. Judges awarded the Beckett Local Prize to David Ralph for his painting Jeanie, which depicts an interior of Brighton’s historic mansion “Billilla”.

Visitors to the finalist exhibition can vote for their favourite painting to be recognised with a $1000 People’s Choice Award, which will be announced upon the closing of the exhibition.

Ultimately, Judge’s advice for artists wanting to apply for the Bayside Painting Prize next year is simply to be true to themselves. ‘I’ve never felt constrained by seeing what other people are doing,’ she says, ‘and I think in this age of being saturated with images, an artist needs to find the thing that is particular to who they are.’  

The Bayside Painting Prize announcement of winners was made on Thursday 2 May 2024 at Bayside Gallery

The Bayside Painting Prize finalist exhibition is on display at Bayside Gallery until 23 June 2024.

Thuy On is the Reviews and Literary Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her debut, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was released by University of Western Australia Publishing (UWAP). Her second collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Her third book, Essence, will be published in 2025. Twitter: @thuy_on Instagram: poemsbythuy