July 18, 2023

Roberta Joy Rich’s Powerful, Multilayered Video Installation Wins Footscray Art Prize 2023

Media Release

The $20,000 main prize in the Footscray Art Prize been awarded to multi-disciplinary artist Roberta Joy Rich for her powerful and multi-layered video installation entitled Though Buried, They Echo. The work places the faces of racist policy makers – whose legacies still define Australian and South African colonial law – beneath the gallery floor. Judges said the work successfully engages both the viewer and the institution.

Roberta’s work was selected from 43 finalists and more than 500 original submissions from artists across Australia as well as internationally based Australian creatives. All the works will be exhibited at Footscray Community Arts from 15 July to 17 September in a site wide takeover of the venue.
Winners were selected by a judging panel comprising University of Melbourne Art Museum Associate Director Charlotte Day, Artist and Curator Phuong Ngo and National Gallery of Victoria’s First Nations Art Curator, Shonae Hobson.
“The success of Roberta’s work is not only the power of its subject and elements, but how she has implicated us as viewers of the work – we walk over it and then are encouraged to look at what is under our feet and almost peripheral – just out of view,” said Charlotte Day.

Kerry O’Neill, Director, Communities & Government Relations awarded the main prize on behalf of Victoria University, a proud partner in the Footscray Art Prize since its inception in 2016. 

“The Footscray Art Prize is a wonderful expression of Footscray’s long tradition in cultural and creative expression and industry, showcased on a national stage. Victoria University is pleased to present the main prize of $20,000 to the winning entry ‘Though Buried, They Echo’ by Roberta Joy Rich. The artist’s evocative work asks us to reflect on the deep seated and often hidden dimensions of racism that sit behind the legacies of government and legal systems“ said Kerry O’Neill. 

A diaspora southern African raised on Wathaurong country, Roberta often references histories relating to her cultural identity and experiences, with a focus on oral connections through communal knowledge systems.

Roberta Joy Rich –  Though Buried, They Echo, Video Installation. Winner Footscray Art Prize 2023

In addition to the $20,000 main prize, three other category prizes were awarded.  The Maribyrnong Council awarded the $10,000 Local Acquisition Prize to subversive needlepoint artist Jessie Deane, whose cotton thread on canvas, The Big Build, documents the West Gate Tunnel build.  The work explores contradictions and dichotomies of hand-made and heavy duty, masculine industry and feminine craft, and rigid materials compared with malleable thread.
City of Maribyrnong Mayor, Cr Sarah Carter said the work explores contradictions and dichotomies of hand-made and heavy duty, masculine industry and what is perceived as “feminine” craft, with the rigid materials compared with malleable thread.

“Jessie is an important local artist who pays homage to Melbourne’s West through their depiction of the industrial landscape using the texture, colour and contrast of thread.  It will be a wonderful addition to the textile works in Council’s collection,” said Mayor Carter.
Council was also so impressed with the bold work Salon Gâr that they awarded a Runner-up Local Acquisition Prize of $5,000 to artist Ammar Yonis. “We found its interplay between past and present, contrasting the opulent interior with contemporary friendship, highly impactful,” said Mayor Carter.
Abbra Kotlarczyk received the $2000 Residency Artist Prize for her artwork Bridgehead (de)composition/Sweating the impurities, which honours her grandfather’s enforced labours as a stone mason during WWII.
“Footscray Community Arts is thrilled to be awarding the Residency Award to Abbra Kotlarczyk for her work Bridgehead (de)composition / Sweating the impurities, 2022. The piece speaks to our keen interest in honouring and platforming artists stories through their contemporary practice and the importance of supporting artists through all stages of their creative practice,” said Daniel Santangeli, Artistic Director and Co-CEO of Footscray Community Arts.
Young Artists Prizes of $500 were awarded to primary school student Grace Nguyen of Maribyrnong and secondary school student Jadyn Gregorio of Wyndham.
The biennial prize is a partnership between Victoria University, Maribyrnong City Council, Footscray Community Arts and the Rotary Club of Footscray, who share a commitment to demonstrating and promoting creativity, cultural achievements and the arts.

On Saturday 5 August, The Rotary Club of Footscray will host a dinner and auction to raise funds for local youth projects.

Local Acquisition Prize Ammar Yonis with his work Salon Gâr, runner-up, 35mm film photograph on silk
Local Acquisition Prize winner Jessie Deane, The Big Build, cotton thread on canvas
Young Artists Prize winner (Secondary) Jadyn Gregorio, atopic dermatitis, oil on aluminium panel
Abbra Kotlarczyk with Residency Artist Prize winning artwork Bridgehead (de)composition/Sweating the impurities
Young Artists Prize winner (Primary) Grace Nguyen, King Sunny amigurumi (crochet, stuffed toy)

Exhibition: Saturday 15 July – Sunday 17 September 2023
Venue: Footscray Community Arts – 45 Moreland St, Footscray
Cost: Free
Further information – www. footscrayartprize.com

Media Images can be found here
Exhibition Catalogue can be found here

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Michaela Hall  – 0419 113 633 / michaela.hall@bigpond.com

L -R:  Ammar Yonis (runner-up Local Acquisition Prize), Grace Nguyen (Young Artists Prize Primary),  Jessie Deane (Local Acquisition Prize winner), Roberta Joy Rich (Footscray Art Prize main prize ), Abbra Kotlarczyk (Residency Artist Prize) 

Images by Gianna Rizzo