Paper prize encourages artists to push the boundaries

Entries to Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery’s 2022 National Works on Paper are now open.
An abstracted landscape of rocks and waves in which the colour blue evokes the artist's memories of Guerilla Bay in Yuin Country.

Danny Lacy, the Director of Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (MPRG), can’t wait to see how artists engage with the ‘amazingly malleable’ medium at the heart of the gallery’s annual prize, the 2022 National Works on Paper.

‘When you let artists just go for it, they tend to push the boundaries of what paper can do, sometimes even further than we probably even considered,’ Lacy enthused.

Established in 1998 (and incorporating the Gallery’s earlier Spring Festival of Drawing and Prints Acquisitive which began in 1973 and 1974 respectively) National Works on Paper inspires artists to explore paper as a medium in a myriad of ways.

‘It’s really an open book,’ Lacy explained. ‘For instance, in the past we’ve had artists such as Deborah Kelly enter a video work, which was this amazing paper animation, and in 2020 we had a performance work by Brian Fuata, which was the first time a work of this nature had been a finalist.’

‘It’s really amazing to let artists loose with paper and to let them push the boundaries as much as they can.

‘Having said that, even just in terms of drawing and printmaking and painting, it’s impressive what artists are creating with paper at the moment. It’s fantastic,’ Lacy said.

Artists are limited only by their imaginations when it comes to entering the prize, as long as their work is executed on or with paper and the paper acts as the main two or three-dimensional support of the artwork.

Entries are now open, and close at 11.59pm AEDT on Friday 8 April 2022. Rules and guidelines are available on the gallery’s website. The winning artist is awarded $20,000 and the prize is acquisitive. The total prize pool is valued at $60,000.

Lacy urged artists to be true to themselves and their practice when thinking about the right work to enter.

‘Think about the work and how you can best articulate your thoughts about it. Why are you passionate about this work, why are you passionate about making this work? That comes through in the applications, the way that people write about their work. You can really tell the people that are passionate, who are interested in exploring their practice and pushing their practice,’ he said.

Such passions have been reflected in the types of paper used by artists in recent years. ‘There has been a rise in homemade papers or pulped paper, where artists have been making their paper from scratch.’

Lacy has also observed ‘that in the last couple of National Works on Papers, there’s been a rise in traditional analogue photographic entries. Traditionally, photography would sit separately to printmaking or drawing, but with the nature of analogue photography and artists printing works themselves on paper, we’ve seen a jump in those works being entered, which is great – it opens the award up to a whole other group of artists who might not previously have entered.’

When it comes to practical advice for artists who are considering entering National Works on Paper 2022, Lacy encourages them to subscribe to the Gallery’s e-newsletter.

‘Across the next two and a half months we’re going to be sending out a number of e-newsletters that include tips and advice, and further information on submitting applications,’ he said.

Importantly, MPRG is committed to giving feedback to artists who enter the prize.

‘For the 2020 award, we offered feedback on unsuccessful applications. We received nearly 1200 applications and I ended up personally giving nearly 200 artists individual feedback – which included some generic feedback, of course – but we just thought that that was a great, personalised service to give because a lot of people enter art prizes and so often, they don’t hear anything. They get the receipt and then that’s it. But hopefully, from that feedback, we actually see really strong repeat entries from those artists this year.’

Entries to the 2022 National Works on Paper are now open. Visit Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery for details.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts